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AIRPORT DESIGN Last modified on December 22, 2013

Project watch - Jomo Kenyatta International Airport

New greenfield terminal to make Nairobi a continental hub by 2017. 

Project details

Location: Nairobi, Kenya

Important developments: Construction of a new Kenya Airways hub terminal

Scheduled completion date: 2017

Principal companies involved: The Louis Berger Group, Runji & Partners Ltd, Anhui/CATIC Consortium, Pascall + Watson Architects, Ltd

Total investment: $654 million


In 2008, the Kenya Airport Authority (KAA) contracted Louis Berger to prepare a National Airports System Plan (NASP) outlining the capacity needs for 13 airports, including Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA).

Working in association with Runji & Partners Ltd, the global infrastructure and development firm authored an NASP-approved concept for the new greenfield terminal that would make Nairobi a continental hub with adequate capacity.

After a competitive bid, the Louis Berger/Runji Team was also selected to provide construction consultancy services.

“Jomo Kenyatta’s existing, circular terminal layout has limited growth and revenue,” admits Jorge Novo, principal airport architect and senior planner for Louis Berger’s global aviation division.

“The proposed terminal configuration of an elongated ‘X’ will better accommodate the recent Kenya Airways fleet expansion and respond better to passenger forecasts.”

The site for the new terminal was identified to the east of the existing Jomo Kenyatta terminal, with the existing runway to its immediate north.

In this first phase of development, which is scheduled for completion in 2017, the two north figures of the ‘X’ will be constructed.

Additionally, a second runway is already under design as part of the airport’s overall expansion plan, which will more than double the airport’s capacity to 20 million passengers per annum.

KAA selected the consortium formed by the (joint venture) companies Anhui Construction Engineering Group and China National Aero-Technology Import & Export Corporation (CATIC), from the People’s Republic of China as the design build contractor for the greenfield terminal.

The Anhui/CATIC Consortium appointed UK architects, Pascall + Watson, as primary designers of the terminal facilities.

While the new terminal seeks to ensure a holistic experience for passengers, it is also designed as an iconic statement for Kenya, reflecting the needs of a modern Nairobi.

The overall design draws from a combination of strong, simple forms, natural materials and careful control of natural light and colour in response to the country’s climate. Gentle curves, overlapping roof planes and radial patterns of the structural columns and façade dominate the proposed facility.

The airport will also be equipped with the latest and greatest in airport systems technology.

The new four-floor, 178,000sqm facility will include 32 contact and 16 remote gates in addition to 50 international and 10 domestic check-in positions.

The main terminal building is arranged over five floors: baggage systems will be located on the ground floor, immigration and arrivals corridors on the first floor, and the second floor will contain the departures concourse, check in and emigration. A hotel and CIP Lounge is planned for the third and fourth floors.

By 2018, the new terminal’s opening year, JKIA will provide capacity needs of growing air traffic, serve as an important East African hub, enhance revenue stream for KAA, and provide an increased level of efficiency and passenger comforts.


The aftermath of the fire

In the early morning hours of August 7, a fire broke out in the arrivals terminal, suspending operations and destroying the building. For four hours the fire burned through Terminal 3 and parts of Terminal 2 before firefighters were able to contain the blaze.

Luckily, there were no casualties reported and normal operations resumed at the airport
two days later.

Currently, international arrivals are handled in tents located on the airport’s aprons and in the existing domestic terminal, with plans to shift operations into a new parking garage by the end of September.

By the end of January, KAA intends to house the international arrivals in the newly completed Terminal 4, which is expected to accommodate 2.5 million passengers annually.

Prior to the fire, construction of Terminal 4 was already under way as a short-term solution to alleviate JKIA’s already limited capabilities. The building will operate for at least three years, according to KAA authorities, and will provide much-needed space as work on the greenfield terminal progresses.

As JKIA continues to deal with the transition, the existing Presidential Pavilion is handling some international departures and holds the international arrivals lounge. Domestic flight operations have transferred to the airport’s cargo terminal.

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Joe Bates

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