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Heathrow looks to canopy for future proofing

Grimshaw heathrow

An innovative canopy structure set over new terminal buildings is at the centre of how Heathrow Airport plans to future-proof its expansion.

Speaking at New Civil Engineer’s Airports conference in London today, Heathrow expansion programme director Phil Wilbraham described how the airport planned to ensure its design feels fresh in the future, making sure that “we don’t design in things that make us out of date before we have even opened.”

Wilbraham elaborated on a lightweight canopy structure for a new terminal, first explained to New Civil Engineer in March. Designed by Grimshaw architects, who worked on the Eden Project in Cornwall, the modular canopy will cover the terminal buildings below.

As a crossover between an indoor and outdoor space, the canopy area would require minimal heating or cooling, making it greener and cheaper.

“It is time to move away from these huge glass structures,” said Wilbraham.

“It [the canopy] will change for us massively how much power we use heating and cooling our buildings.”

The canopy will have a fully transparent, ethylene tetrafluoroethylene (ETFE) cushioned roof and planting inside to give the space and outdoor feel. As it is modular, the canopy can be expanded or altered as the number or position of buildings underneath changes.

Wilbraham described how future transport models are taken into account when designing Heathrow’s expansion: autonomous vehicles could reduce the need for car parking space at the airport, while changes in baggage routes to the airport could mean less space is needed for baggage storage and handling facilities.

Heathrow’s integrated design team will consult on initial plans in the summer, before a second consultation takes place and an application for a development consent order (planning permission) is made in 2019. The team consists of concept architect Grimshaw, engineering firms Mott MacDonald, Amec Foster-Wheeler, Jacobs, Atkins, and Arup, and planning consultants Quod.

Phil Wilbraham was speaking at New Civil Engineer’s Airports 2017 conference in London today.

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