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NEWS Last modified on September 24, 2015

Online feature: Heathrow T3's baggage handling system upgrade

George McBride reflects on Heathrow Terminal 3’s new baggage handling system and how a multi-disciplinary project team was able to integrate new Standard 3 Screening into the Existing Baggage Hall.

Key to Heathrow Airport’s investment in its new state-of-the-art Terminal 3 integrated baggage handling system (T3IB) was its connection to the check-in desks and existing infrastructure.

It also had to utilise the latest Standard 3 baggage screening technology to give it a more in-depth analysis of the baggage contents using an X-ray technology also used by medical Computer Tomography (CT) Scanners.

The project responds to the UK Department for Transport/EU requirement to deploy European Civil Aviation Conference compliant Standard 3 Hold Baggage Screening equipment by 2018, bringing enhanced security for air travel from the UK

By connecting the existing check-in area in T3 to the new T3IB baggage handling system, the terminal will be able to process and screen all baggage from the existing departures building, as well as the intra and inter-transfer baggage between terminals, supported by an early baggage storage facility.

Initial works

The buildings that make up the existing baggage hall (EBH) at T3 have been subject to alterations and regular development since the early 1960s.

As with many buildings from this period they include the presence of asbestos in the building systems and fabric. Added to this, there is a complex structural system following numerous modifications, including a new baggage mezzanine and the primary support to the International Departure Lounge overhead.

The floor level also has been through significant variations as it was formed from an area previously used as an airport apron.

The enabling works project required the need to redevelop the EBH, including removing the existing baggage systems and asbestos, as well as replacing the below ground Fire Main and modifying the main structure.

New baggage systems and building services were integrated into the EBH to link all T3 check-in desks to the new T3IB facility via a multi-conveyor link bridge.

The approach

In parallel with baggage system functional design, feasibility works started in 2012, concentrating on impact assessments within the EBH.

The design team included Vanderlande as Baggage Integrator, MSPS for Civil and Structural and Building Services Designer and GTA as the Architect.

To capture the details of the existing installations a full 3D laser survey of the complete baggage hall was completed – an area measuring 50m wide by 190m long and 7m high.

This produced over 100GB of information that needed to be analysed and incorporated into a 3D building model so that the team could understand how the new baggage systems could be designed and integrated into the existing space.

The team then used Navisworks (3D design review software) output from the model to check co-ordination issues and run clash detection on the new designs.

The image below is an extract from the laser scan information with the new baggage system inserted to check for clashes with existing systems.

Once the information was processed the AutoCad 3D model enabled the team to assess the impact on the existing structure and services.

The new baggage systems were designed around the existing constraints to minimise the cost and the programme impact. This required the team to design around the network of existing primary columns supporting the structure overhead.

The image below highlights the six new link conveyors entering the new link bridge whilst avoiding all of the existing primary building columns. This approach enabled the design to be completed without the need for any costly and disruptive primary steelwork modifications.


Maintaining a live environment

Passenger experience is of the utmost importance for HAL and so work had to be carried out whilst passengers continued to check in their baggage, without impeding or inconveniencing their journey.

This ‘live environment’ was required during the removal of all the existing Standard 2 screening, sortation and make-up baggage systems serving the existing check-in zones, and replacement of new feed conveyor loops.

In addition, the EBH was required to house four of the terminal’s 12 new Standard 3 HBS machines, involving fundamental changes to the electrical infrastructure to support the new equipment.

The scale of the task was considerable: T3 processes circa 25,000 bags per day from various airlines and is spread across seven different passenger zones, feeding four individual baggage systems.

It is not surprising, therefore, that maintaining a live environment during the strip-out and new build was a considerable challenge.

An additional complication to the relocation process was the closure of T1 in July 2015. This brought additional volume and pressure on T3 phased planning.

The solution involves moving airlines between zones and migrating to new terminals in order to clear check-in zones over five separate construction phases, a process which is currently in progress and set to take place over a period of 18 months.

This process has currently reached phase three and has taken months of complex planning to ensure airlines, associated handlers and infrastructure are in place prior to the phased shut down and removal of the existing technology.

Innovation and improvement

During the design process the team embraced the opportunity for innovation, and a good example of this is the new screening machine ventilation.

In order to improve the environmental conditions within the EBH, MSPS designed a network of extraction ducts to capture the warm air emitted from the new screening machines.

This is discharged externally during summer time to keep operating temperatures down and the machines cool. During winter months the warm air is re-circulated and used to provide beneficial heat to the loading docks of the baggage hall.
Screening Ventilation

Another notable improvement was to replace the existing lighting systems with LEDs and centrally controlled luminaires, saving HAL over 30% in lighting-related energy costs.

This was supplemented by self-illuminated LED emergency signage throughout.

Benefits to Heathrow and passengers

Rob Billingham, MSPS design manager for the T3 EBH project, reveals that the project was designed to enable the integration of standard 3 scanning machines.

 “This was crucial in order that Heathrow can continue to lead its field in supporting the latest security regulations and most advanced technology,” he says.

“As each phase has been completed, the T3IB facility has offered numerous additional benefits to passengers and airlines.”

This article has described the works required within the EBH, which has been a critical enabling project for the new T3IB facility. The overall system provides a host of benefits for baggage operations at T3 that include:

• New high-speed conveyors to reduce baggage processing times;

• Early scan facilities in the system, to route the bag efficiently and provide continuous identification;

 • Automated bag store providing an early check-in facility for passengers;

• Bi-directional conveyor loops from check-in providing greater system resilience;

• First UK use of robotic build cells to load Unit Loading Devices (ULDs), reducing ergonomic issues previously encountered loading heavy bags;

• Connectivity with T5 via an underground baggage tunnel, improving flight connect times for transferring passengers;

Darren Colderwood, delivery director for T3, T5 and T3IB Projects for HAL comments: “By continually developing and upgrading its assets, Heathrow is able to ensure it remains the number one choice for international and UK passengers.”

• George McBride sector director for transport at Morgan Sindall Professional Services (MSPS)

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