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AIRPORT DESIGN Last modified on June 29, 2014

Looking good!

Heathrow is confident that its new Terminal 2 will enhance the passenger experience and set a new benchmark in airport design, writes Justin Burns.

The spotlight will be firmly on Heathrow this June when the world’s busiest international airport opens it latest showpiece facility – Terminal 2: The Queen’s Terminal.

The huge new addition to Heathrow’s infrastructure has taken four years to build and will, arguably, make the UK hub more efficient than ever before as it will allow all 23 members of the Star Alliance to be under one roof for the first time.

Initially equipped to handle 20mppa, the state-of-the-art complex has been built on the site of the old Terminal 2, which opened in 1955 and was designed to handle 1.2mppa but ended up handling over eight million passengers in its last few years.

An enthused Stephen Buckley, head of category at Heathrow Airport Holdings, told Airport World, that the new T2 is a key part of the gateway’s future strategy.

“This is a massive stepping stone, as it will be the most modern airport facility in Europe, handling a very large number of transfer passengers (through the Star Alliance).

“Transit travellers will no longer have to switch between terminals, so the journey of many passengers will be so much better.

“Terminal 5 was an incredibly strong benchmark, but T2 is built for the passenger and is all about the experience and journey, from the simplicity of the car park, to the check-in to airside, and the way the retail has been laid out. Everything is designed to enhance the passengers’ experience.”


Facts and figures

Heathrow’s new addition sprawls the equivalent size of 25 football pitches, with the main terminal building T2A and a satellite building T2B, that connect via an underground walkway.

The gateway signed up a raft of firms to work on the design and build of the Queen’s Terminal, including concept and lead architect Luis Vidal + Architects, who collaborated with Pascall+Watson during the fit-out phase, to create a striking three-wave roof design, which can even have its colour changed.

Master planner was Foster + Partners, who also took on the responsibility of terminal building concept architect during the initial project phase.

The main terminal buildings were constructed by HETCo (a joint venture between Ferrovial Agroman and Laing O’Rourke) and Balfour Beatty.

A total of 24 boarding gates will service flights, 10 located in T2A and 14 in T2B, while a two-level departure lounge has 10-metre viewing windows giving sweeping views of the aircraft apron, and the spacious check-in area features a mix of 182 traditional and self-service desks.

Also built on the site are a four-storey car park with 1,340 spaces, a ground handling building and an energy centre and cooling station.

Contemporary artwork has also been incorporated into the design of T2, and arriving passengers will be greeted by Slipstream, a 78-metre aluminium sculpture the size of an A400 aircraft, created by artist Richard Wilson.


Setting a benchmark

Extensive planning and development went into T2, and planners used the positive – and negative – experiences learnt from Terminal 5 in their strategy.

“We have taken the best things from T5, and lessons learned from that and other projects to create an even better terminal this time around,” says Buckley. “It has given us the chance to make the customer journey even better.”

He says in Heathrow’s view, it will be a ‘benchmark’ project for the development of airport terminals, and will shape the hub for generations to come.

“T5 was a great benchmark, but we have aimed to improve on the space and design, and in terms of retail and F&B,” Buckley adds, noting that successful elements from T2 are likely to be rolled out to Heathrow’s other terminals when they are upgraded in the future.


Going green

Building a sustainable terminal and keeping carbon emissions to a minimum Buckley says, were a key part of the development.

Terminal 2 will be one of the first BREEAM-certified airport terminals in the world, while the 50,000sqm three-wave roof, and 10-metre high windows have been designed and installed to maximise natural light.

The terminal will emit 40.5% less CO2 emissions compared to those built before 2006, and 20% of T2’s energy needs will come from renewable sources, while 97% of the demolished buildings from the old T2 and former Queen’s Building were recycled.

Meanwhile, the energy centre, Buckley explains, runs on wood chippings from Richmond Park, and is one of the largest biomass boilers in the UK, and will provide energy, and act as a cooling station.


All about the passenger

According to Buckley, the passenger experience and comfort was at the heart of the T2 project, as Heathrow set about catering for every potential traveller requirement.

Buckley explains that as Heathrow operates more than 99% capacity level on a daily basis, it only takes some fog to paint a negative image in the minds of customers, so it was vital T2 is somewhere people enjoy spending time.

“What T2 will ensure is that your journey and while you are at Heathrow, will be as pleasurable and enjoyable as possible,” Buckley says.

Facilities and have been built to meet passengers’ varying needs, and a host of innovative dedicated services have been introduced, he says.

These include family short-stay parking close to the terminal building, children’s play areas, and for business travellers, car park space finding technology, and free Wi-Fi and connectivity tables.

Multi-lingual passenger ambassadors will also be on hand to assist, while personal shoppers will help maximise shopping experiences.

‘Experiential’ is the word that comes up repeatedly when Buckley talks about what T2 is all about, and he says the difference between T2 and T5, is that the newer terminal will be more interactive and provide a better customer experience.

“Terminal 5 looks, feels and sounds amazing, but T2: The Queen’s Terminal will have more things for people to do.

“There will be beauty facials, nitrogen ice cream being made, and restaurants will use the latest technology, while it will be one of the first airports in the world to have personal shopping.

“Everything is geared at T2 for technology, and to make the passengers’ journey as simple and easy as possible.”


Sense of place

Heathrow aimed to create a ‘sense of place’ at T2, so Britishness was adopted as the central theme, to showcase everything that Great Britain has to offer.

Research carried out by the airport during the planning phase, found travellers wanted more premium restaurants and a greater number of British brands.

“Most of the research we have looked at when people talk about airports is they say they are the same,” reveals Buckley. “A lot of airports look and feel the same, for example, to the extent that you could be anywhere, but T2 has been designed and developed with a sense of place, that you feel you are in Great Britain.”

Retail and F&B concessions include 64 shops and restaurants to keep passengers busy, of which 60% are British brands.

Creating a diverse and unique retail and F&B environment to maximise non-aviation revenues was a key part of the T2 strategy.

Passengers can shop at John Lewis (their first airport store), Burberry or Harrods, have a pint at a Fuller’s operated pub (London’s Pride), or eat at Heston Blumenthal’s The Perfectionists’ Café. 

At the forefront of the retail environment, is a 22,000 square foot World Duty Free store, kitted out with a high-tech digital facia.

Regular services will include free beauty treatments from brands such as Clinique, while liquor brands will frequently run tasting bars and promotions.

Buckley comments: “The duty free store at T2 is not a branded store, it is a house of brands. The duty free store will be a very luxurious environment.”

So the stage is set for Heathrow once again, and T2 will even get the royal approval and endorsement when the Queen officially opens the new terminal on June 23.

For now, the 24,000 staff it will employ are busy focusing on the first day, and Buckley says that he and his colleagues, are well aware the world will be watching.

He says the hub expects some ‘teething problems’, but he confidently assures Airport World that Terminal 2 will be ready and raring to go come the June 4 opening date.

Passengers on a United Airlines flight from Chicago O’Hare with an ETA of around 6am on June 4 are expected to have the honour of being the first to use the terminal. Do you think that this will be too early for a celebratory glass of champagne?

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