The world’s newest major airport, Beijing Daxing, opened for business in late September as China marked another major milestone in the modernisation and expansion of its aviation infrastructure.
The new $12.9 billion gateway is one of the key developments in the modernisation and expansion of its airport infrastructure as China prepares to replace the US as the largest aviation market on the planet by as early as 2024.
Located 46 kilometres south of Beijing’s Tian’anmen Square, the airport took less than five years to build and boasts the world’s biggest single terminal building – a 700,000sqm complex with five connected concourses – and four runways, giving it the capacity to accommodate up to 45 million passengers per annum.
However, this figure will rise to 72 million with the addition of a satellite terminal in 2025 and, with future phased expansion, it is expected to be capable of handling in excess of 100 million passengers and four million tonnes of cargo annually by 2040.
It is also set to become a major rail station for the Chinese capital courtesy of an integrated ground transportation hub underneath the terminal building, from where 16 railways lines offer travellers rapid connections to multiple modes of ground transport across China.
The rail links include subway lines, national high-speed rail networks, and local train services, all of which are expected to serve as a catalyst for economic development.
Daxing’s addition means that between them Beijing’s two airports (Daxing and Capital) will be equipped to accommodate 170 million annual passengers by 2025.
And that capacity will be needed as passenger numbers at Beijing Capital have been growing by an average of around 5% per annum for a decade, and a record 101 million passengers (+5.4%) passed through its facilities in 2018.
The airport’s impressive new terminal was planned as a ‘Phoenix’ by ADP Ingénierie, a wholly-owned subsidiary of France’s Groupe ADP. It won the international planning and design competition organised by Beijing New Airport Construction Headquarters (BNAH) in 2014, then optimised the concept in a team led by BNAH, with the support of Zaha Hadid Architects.
Beijing Architectural Design Research Institute (BIAD) and China Airport Construction Group (CACC) subsequently performed design development as the general design contractor.
Equipped with 79 gates and capable of simultaneously accommodating six A380s, arguably the key design feature of the new terminal is its central atrium supported by eight C-shaped columns spanning an area of over 100 metres.
While the roof itself is a large-span and complex hyperboloid steel grid structure covering over 350,000sqm that incorporates numerous skylights fresh air intakes and return air ducts.
Tempered air is supplied at low level to cool people inside the building and not the space, minimising energy use and increasing comfort.
China’s rich history, traditions, architecture and symbols are all reflected in the design and appearance of the new airport.
The designers state: “Echoing principles within traditional Chinese architecture that organise interconnected spaces around a central courtyard, the terminal’s design guides all passengers seamlessly through the relevant departure, arrival or transfer zones towards the grand courtyard at its centre – a multi-layered meeting space at the heart of the terminal.
“Six flowing forms within the terminal’s vaulted roof reach to the ground to support the structure and bring natural light within, directing all passengers towards the central courtyard.
“Natural light also enters the terminal via a network of linear skylights that provide an intuitive system of navigation throughout the building, guiding passengers to and from their departure gates.
“Structural spans of up to 100 metres create the terminal’s generous public spaces and allow the highest degree of flexibility for any future reconfiguration.
“Once inside, travellers can easily and intuitively find their way through the terminal. The openness of the central space allows the passenger to grasp all the terminal parts and functions, reducing the stress factor linked to the unknown and uncertainty.
“The feeling of wellbeing is reinforced by the architecture, which enhances the sense of movement within the terminal. Both modern and respectful to the cultural environment, the terminal is inspired by Chinese traditions and symbols, while giving them a contemporary touch.”
Easy come, easy go!
The designers insist that the compact radial design of the terminal ensures the optimum amount of aircraft gates for a facility of its size and minimises walking distances for passengers.
Indeed, the farthest boarding gates from the Departures Hall are less than an eight minute walk away while no gate is more than 600 metres from the main central court, which is home to the terminal’s shops, F&B outlets and all other passenger services and amenities.
This compact, people-friendly design, says the design team, ensures that Beijing Daxing provides “exceptional convenience for passengers” and significant operational flexibility for the airlines.
Photovoltaic power generation is installed throughout the airport to provide a minimum capacity of at least 10MW.
Beijing Daxing’s centralised heating with waste heat recovery is supported by a composite ground-source heat pump system incorporating a concentrated energy supply area of nearly 2.5 million square metres.
The airport also implements rainwater collection and recycling and a water management system that employs the natural storage, permeation and purification of up to 2.8 million cubic metres of water in new wetlands, lakes and streams to prevent flooding and counter the summer ‘heat island’ effect on the local micro-climate.
Talking about the sustainable elements built into the terminal’s design, BuroHappold say: “Environmental drivers played a key role in the development of our concept. We incorporated numerous passive elements into the design, including shading strategies, high performance glazing, and carefully placed roof lights that optimise the energy performance of the terminal.
“These solutions will result in a predicted 50% reduction in overall energy consumption and CO2 emissions”.
Good times ahead
Initial reaction to Daxing has been positive, and ZHA has no doubt that the new airport, which has been assigned the three letter IATA code PKX, “sets a new standard in air transport services, serving the region’s growing population within a compact and efficient passenger terminal that is adaptable for future growth.”
While ADP Ingénierie believes that the decision to focus Daxing’s design around the needs of passengers has led to the development of a terminal that will provide “a good and enjoyable experience” for travellers.