There are clear benefits to working collaboratively but projects do not always start out that way.
Tarmac has extensive experience working with the aviation industry. It laid the first runway at Heathrow in 1944 and 70 years later came back to carry out a £13.4M project which included resurfacing the southern and northern runways and rapid exit taxiways.
The last full-length runway to be built in the UK – at Manchester Airport – was built by Tarmac and the company has also more recently carried out resurfacing works at airports across the country, including Newcastle International. Other aviation projects it has been involved with include resurfacing works at Ministry of Defence RAF facilities.
Jeremy greenwood cropped
Jeremy Greenwood, Tarmac’s managing director of national commercial and construction solutions, has said that this sort of heritage and experience has allowed the company to become a valued partner for advice and consultation in aviation construction projects. In the case of the resurfacing project at Heathrow Airport – with main contractor Morgan Sindall – it meant that Tarmac had a place at the table when the all-important early construction design conversation took place.
“Typically, as a materials supplier we can be the last people to be involved in the construction design conversation,” says Greenwood. “In the Heathrow project, there were numerous aspects to look at, such as the design of the pavement itself as well as the logistics of the project, the costs and how we could minimise environmental impact.”
“But generally, the sooner we can get involved in the conversation the better. Then we can collectively look at how we can make the project work more efficiently as opposed to making decisions in isolation individually.”
Earlier collaboration can allow supply chain partners to introduce new techniques and solutions. It can also give clients an opportunity to support local businesses – and gain local support – especially among small and medium sized enterprises. With its logistics expertise, Tarmac is helping airport operators and clients cut project timescales and costs while mitigating wider disruption to the public. But, Greenwood argues, this requires greater early engagement across the whole supply chain.
There are unique challenges working at Heathrow –as the sixth busiest airport in the world, there is not scope to cause disruption.
Short working window
There was only a short working window in which the work could take place. Runway possession began each night at 10.30pm and the fully functioning runway had to be handed back at 5am. Material cooling, skid-resistance testing and a final sweep of the runway were all built into a strict working window.
Tarmac worked closely with Morgan Sindall and Heathrow Airport from the outset to determine how to carry out the project in the most efficient way. Working back from the original window dictated how much equipment could be on site, the size of the on-site asphalt plant, and determined that they needed to lay 450t of asphalt each night.
Good early communication can help uncover innovation and improve the passenger experience. On a project to extend the passenger concourse at Gatwick Airport, for example, Tarmac used its flowing concrete product Topflow. This meant the concrete did not need to be vibrated into place and only the section being worked on had to be fenced off.
“What could be a noisy, disruptive operation was more or less silent and allowed the concourse to remain open,” says Greenwood. And as Gatwick is a 24/7 operation, closing the concourse would have been extremely difficult.
Quality and sustainability
Sustainability is another area of high priority for the aviation industry. Greenwood argues that the quality of the materials used is crucial and points to the Heathrow resurfacing project to illustrate his point. The 3km north and south runways were planed and resurfaced with 50mm of Marshall Ashpalt surface course. An Airfield Stone Mastic Asphalt was used to upgrade the 12 turnoffs and taxiways.
“The quality of material that was put down and the quality of the installation makes the current runway a very low maintenance system,” says Greenwood. “So for environmental impact, this is a great advantage. Heathrow Airport was very forward thinking in wanting the best and longest life surface, which is a better environmental solution as well as a lower cost solution in the longer term.”
Greenwood argues that it is important to look long term. “People can get overly focused on the short term costs and the short term environmental impacts,” he says. “A tonne of asphalt or a cubic metre of concrete with a ‘higher’ capital carbon footprint at the point of delivery, for example, could be three or four times more carbon efficient and durable when in use than a ‘lower carbon’ alternative, or may need less maintenance over its lifespan. It’s important to apply whole life principles and consider the total impact of products over the life cycle of a piece of infrastructure and not just up to the point of construction.”
Heysham M6 link
Putting its sustainability know-how into practice while working collaboratively on a project to redesign the pavement and structure of the Heysham M6 link road with Costain, Tarmac was able to help reduce the carbon footprint of the project by 21%.
The company has also developed numerous innovative products, many with an environmental focus. It can offer, for example, porous concrete and porous asphalt that allow water drainage and so mitigate flooding. However, if water is collected after heavy rain, it can also be recycled.
Greenwood argues that the huge expansion planned for Heathrow offers the construction industry an opportunity to work in a very different way.
Early engagement at the heart of these construction programmes can help the industry tackle huge infrastructure challenges. High Speed 2 (HS2), for example, will require around 10M.t of materials, which is a huge logistical challenge. Greenwood adds, “you have to consider how to get the material to the project full stop, and then how to get it to the project in the most sustainable way.”
But it is not just the large projects that offer opportunities for the industry, Greenwood argues. Airports around the country are looking to boost capacity by increasing the efficiencies of passenger drop-off zones, for example.
Birmingham airport has also said it is considering building a new terminal to link it to the HS2 station. Whatever the project, Greenwood says, Tarmac plans to continue to embrace aviation and use innovation to bring further benefits to the table.
In association with Tarmac