Project update: Transformation of London Stansted Airport

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Matthew Butters, Pascall+Watson

London Stansted’s £600m (US$830m) Transformation program will be the biggest upgrade to the airport in nearly 30 years. Matthew Butters, aviation director at Pascall+Watson, provides a complete rundown of the project

London Stansted’s terminal building opened in 1991 with the intention of establishing the airport as London’s third airport. Its subsequent development has not always followed an established plan but nonetheless growth has been positive and it is now a thriving facility under the ownership of Manchester Airports Group (MAG).

The existing building designed by Foster + Partners has been remarkably resilient given that many of the security, operational and commercial practices are very different today compared with when the building was originally conceived. True, some of the original clarity of perspective and feeling of openness has been lost due to progressive layout changes. But the original principles of flexibility and architectural clarity under a single roof mean that the terminal retains an iconic feeling of departure and has continued to function beyond its originally intended operational capacity.

One of the current benefits of the airport is the available runway capacity, but a transformation of the terminal is required to unlock this potential. Stansted Airport has approval to serve up to 35 million passengers per annum (MPPA), however, current projections show the potential to quickly supersede this capacity. The airport has recently submitted a planning application with the local authority to allow it to handle up to 43 MPPA.

Terminal transformation
Architectural and design firm Pascall+Watson was commissioned by Stansted Airport to lead a multidisciplinary team including Ramboll and Mott MacDonald for the transformation of the airport. This design will meet the demands for short-term growth and set the framework for achieving long-term growth. Once completed, the transformed terminal complex will reinstate the coherent, spacious feeling of the original building and provide additional footprint for passenger facilities as a departures-only facility.

Andrew Eagle, technical specialist at Mott MacDonald, explains, “MAG is what we would call a ‘high-speed’ organization, that has challenged the design team to produce a flexible and high-quality design under ambitious program demands.

“It’s an absorbing challenge to design a new campus to meet evolving design specifications while ensuring that we stay true to the business case requirements of the client.”

A diverse mix of airlines now flies from the airport with 14 new carriers and 40 new routes added since 2013. This includes both full service and low-cost long haul carriers. For example, Emirates started flying direct to Dubai at the beginning of June 2018, which has greatly increased the potential connectivity of the airport with the rest of the world.

Updated technologies and more flexible facilities will be provided to meet the needs of such diverse growth. This includes a new Arrivals Terminal with dedicated immigration and reclaim facilities; the existing terminal reconfigured to a ‘shoreline’ check-in arrangement including extensive use of self-check-in and self-bag-drop technology; expanded and enhanced aviation security and redesigned passenger waiting; and an improved commercial and food and beverage offer.

The satellites and passenger connections to airside will also be progressively upgraded to connect all parts of the terminal complex. A new landscaped arrivals plaza will be created adjacent to the existing forecourt which will become a new focal point for arrivals into the UK.

Paul Willis, programme director for the Stansted Transformation program, says, “Since MAG acquired London Stansted in 2013, it has been one of the UK’s fastest growing airports with passenger numbers increasing from 17 million a year to over 26 million today. With further passenger growth expected over the next decade and new airlines keen to join Stansted, it’s vital we plan for the future.

“Over the next five years, MAG is investing £600m (US$830m) to deliver the biggest upgrade to the airport since the iconic Sir Norman Foster terminal opened in 1991. This investment will transform the airport and help unlock London Stansted’s full potential to offer more flights and destinations and provide more opportunities for passengers, business partners and the local community.”

Achieving this transformation within and around the boundaries of an existing operational terminal will be extremely challenging. The Pascall+Watson design team has worked with Stansted Airport to develop a number of strategies to provide the maximum benefit while minimizing disruption to passengers and airline operations.

Key to this is the delivery of the new Arrivals Terminal as quickly and cleanly as possible. The capacity provided by this new building allows further development to take place within the existing terminal, away from passenger operations, which maximized safety and minimizes disruption. New departures facilities can then be provided inside the existing terminal in a progressive and predictable fashion.

Green credentials
The concept of a standalone Arrivals Terminal will also allow the design team to maximize the environmental benefit of the new facility as opposed to extending the existing terminal.

Engineering design has been driven by improving the passenger experience and energy efficiency. Passive measures will be used to reduce the overall energy demand of the Arrivals Terminal, including the use of high-performance glazing and brise soleil to maximize natural daylight across the public areas while reducing solar gains. This also reduces the reliance on artificial lighting and gives passengers a more pleasant experience as they travel through the terminal.

For the ventilation systems, free cooling and heat recovery will be used throughout the new building to reduce the reliance on mechanical cooling. In addition, a new energy efficient centralized MEP plant will be provided for the Arrivals Terminal, which will be easily expandable in the future to enable the replacement of the ageing plant serving existing buildings. The Arrivals Terminal will achieve a BREEAM rating of Very Good as a minimum.

This philosophy has been considered in all areas including the structural design of the baggage reclaim area which has been designed to provide passengers with an unobstructed transition through the Arrivals Terminal.

Speed of delivery will be maximized due to the relatively unencumbered nature of the site and interfaces can be carefully managed. The construction method of the new building will be optimized for flexibility allowing a number of possible operational configurations within the same, regular footprint, providing long-term operational resilience and future opportunities to amend the layout to meet demand.

Scott Edgar, buildings director at Ramboll, comments, “The Stansted Transformation program scope of works has provided a fantastic opportunity to improve the performance of the existing assets in terms of passenger experience, commercial revenue, energy use and resilience, while also delivering innovative solutions in the design of the new infrastructure.

“It is rare that you get the chance to work on a scheme that involves so many of the functions of an operational airport and it’s incredibly exciting to be involved in the delivery of a scheme that will transform the facilities at London Stansted Airport.”

The transformed Stansted Airport will enable passenger growth in response to strong demand from London and the surrounding region. Additional space and facilities will be added in incremental steps that maximize capacity and minimize passenger impact at every stage.

It will be as efficient as possible in construction and operation as well as an environmentally friendly airport building. The expanded terminal complex will respect the design of the original building and provide new facilities throughout. When completed, the airport will consolidate its position as London’s third airport and provide a new, improved experience for travelers to and from the UK.

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