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How many times have you landed at an airport and been taken aback by the magnificent and complex structure? Some airports, mostly international, are more than just airports. They are more like small towns in themselves from cafes, restaurants, shopping malls to hotels – you name it, and they have it.

Over the years airports have evolved from being just a landing and take-off place for aircraft to becoming tourism, commercial, and cultural hubs for residents and visitors alike today. Airport terminals and control towers are no longer restricted to functional and operational roles but perform complex roles as landmarks, signposts, and cultural identities. Some of the major tourist destinations like Dubai International Airport, Changi Airport (Singapore), Wellington Airport (New Zealand), and Winnipeg International Airport (Canada) are known for their exemplary and intricate structures. This has ramifications, especially in terms of design. It is here where BIM technology provides a unique solution for building and constructing marvellous structures by optimizing costs and time frames.

Airports and BIM

Large-scale projects like airports which keep evolving over a period of time are complex to build and even more complex to manage over their lifespan.

In BIM you do not merely draw a design, but you build it, and this unique feature is what makes BIM desirable for large-scale projects. This gives the technology its ability to increase the ROI by curtailing costs, material procurement and planning, clash detection, and better collaboration in the build phase of the project. BIM helps optimize the ongoing operations of the facility by providing a reliable base design to define management plans and help gauge the likely carbon footprint of a facility. It’s this integration of technology that makes a building stand apart today and BIM, when implemented from the first phase, allows us to do just that. It becomes easier to build, transform or reconstruct (a part of) an existing building with the help of BIM.

Let’s look at these three airports across the world that are/will be built using BIM technology:

1.    Istanbul Airport

The new international airport being built in the city of Istanbul, Turkey; is going to be the world’s largest modern airport. The new airport is being built from scratch, and is going to be constructed in four phases with the first phase being completed in 2018.  The first phase consisted of one terminal, three runways and a remarkable structure for the air traffic control tower. Once completed and fully operational, the IGA will cater to 200 million passengers annually.

“Since the aviation sector develops rapidly nowadays, efficiency in developing outstanding standards according to our baseline schedule and compared to other projects worldwide is critical for us. We aren’t just creating an airport, but also value for people. BIM is an essential tool for us to deliver this super megaproject,” Yusuf Akçayo?lu, CEO, IGA Airports Construction.

Thousands of people are working daily on the construction site. One can only imagine the task of communicating every bit of change in design across these numbers. According to Dr. Ozan Koseoglu, Director of BIM, IGA – the team has saved on humongous amounts of time and money by identifying more than 320,500 clashes in the design. The clash reports are issued and assigned to relevant parties along with updating the rest of the team through BIM. BIM has helped in preventing unseen time extensions, cost overruns, and any other unexpected claims.

2.    Kempegowda International Airport (KIA), Bengaluru, India

We have written in the past of the impact of BIM on public infrastructure projects in India like the Nagpur Metro. We have also had the privilege of providing our BIM expertise to the Mumbai International Airport.

The T2 terminal at Bengaluru’s KIA will be one more in the growing list of infrastructure projects in India to benefit from BIM technology. Tom Shimmin, Chief Project Officer, BIAL has said, “BIM will enable us to develop new and innovative infrastructure, thereby setting new benchmarks. We are proud to be early adopters – not just in India, but the world,’’ The project will integrate a full BIM lifecycle for the entire project lifecycle.

The combined capacity of both terminals will be over 70 million passengers annually. The government has said that the first phase will be operational by the end of March 2021. BIM could play a vital role in helping achieve that pace of project completion.

3.    Denver International Airport, United States of America

The expansion plan for Denver International Airport, one of the largest airport facilities in the world, included the construction of a hotel, public plaza, and transit centre next to the south terminal of the airport. The construction agency had the complex task of considering the existing structure and amalgamating it with the vast new proposed one.

Another issue faced by the design team was accommodating the weather movement of the existing roof of the south terminal. The roof at the south terminal was an iconic design made of fabric which is supported by a steel cable system with tie-downs that help in maintaining the tension and in anchoring the roof to the ground. Due to weather conditions, the roof moves vertically up to 18 inches. Now, the hotel building that is being constructed required displacing six of these anchors along with incorporating them in its design. The meticulous planning for this was done through virtual models built with the help of BIM. This helped the team in understanding and designing the structure in the most efficient way and faster.

These are but some of the many massive airports that are taking wing with BIM. Large public infrastructure projects offer readymade business cases for BIM with the projected savings in time, cost, and effort. It’s no surprise that success stories like these have made it vital to incorporate BIM technology in large-scale infrastructure projects such as airports.

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