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The art of building an airport: A timeline

When designing a new airport or expanding an existing facility, a great deal of time and effort has to be put into thinking about the layout. This includes everything from the positioning of the runway to how the airport will impact on the surrounding environment and the people who live and work nearby. Anderselite have taken a look at those factors which planners and designers have to take into consideration when building an airport:

Airports aren't just built on the land available without any thought being put into them. The positioning and layout of the runway is critical to the smooth operating of an airport, so a great deal of thought is put into how this is built in relation to the terminal building. Factors that impact on the design of an aerospace runway include environmental and geological concerns, the impact of noise levels, existing obstructions and localised weather patterns.

Environmental and Geological Concerns
Airports cannot operate without having some impact on the environment or the surrounding area, but it's important to consider how this can be lessened or improved. Operating an airport can have a substantial effect on the local water supply due to the pollution from a number of processes. Therefore, it's important that treatment facilities are designed for issues such as sewage and fuel spillages.

It's critical that the geological implications of building and running an airport are taken into consideration in the initial design phase. Airport buildings and the planes that use the runway are extremely heavy, so the ground the foundations are built on must be stable. It will need to support large weights, with huge amounts of concrete used just to build the runways. If the ground was to give way when the airport was operational, it would be dangerous for those using the facilities.

Noise Levels
With the increase in the amount of air travel, larger airports are being built in close proximity to residential areas. Therefore, it's vital that designers consider the impact on local people, particularly when it comes to the noise of the aircraft. This impact can be reduced by simply planning the orientation of the runway, as well as implementing take-off and landing routes that fly less over the most densely populated areas.

Both natural and man-made obstructions will have an impact on airport design. Mountainous areas can affect wind patterns around an airport. How the air heats up or cools when circulating round mountains is vitally important, as this can create strong and unpredictable winds and dangerous levels of turbulence. This can also be a problem with tall buildings that are positioned in the local vicinity.

Weather Patterns
Local weather patterns must be studied prior to building an airport so that the prevailing wind direction can be determined. Planes need to take off and land according to the direction of the wind. Therefore, the runway should be positioned to take best advantage of the winds.

The Future of Airports
The demand for air travel is continuing to increase and airports of the future will need to expand to meet these needs. The future development of an airport will have an impact on how it's designed, even though it's impossible to know exactly what the requirements will be in 20 years. The design and layout of the buildings and the land around the airport should be fairly flexible, as this will allow for future expansion to take place more easily and reduce the impact it will have on existing operations. One of the current trends is to build column-free buildings, which are much more straightforward to expand.

Airports are focusing more and more on increasing revenues. This now affects the design and positioning of an airport from the very beginning of the process. Retail opportunities within the airport are an important element of the operations. Therefore, it's important to consider where these will be placed to best take advantage of passengers' needs. Even the land around the airport is useful for the building of hotels, offices and freight services.

In every factor of our lives we're trying to limit the impact we have on the environment and our use of air travel is no exception. In the future, airport design will focus more heavily on the use of green and renewable energy sources, such as bio-mass and wind. Buildings are also now designed to take maximum advantage of natural light, in order to reduce energy usage and make the experience more pleasant for passengers.

Technological advances will have a considerable impact on the future of airport design, particularly when it comes to IT systems. There'll be less reliance on humans for operations such as check-in and security. A lot of effort is also being put into improving luggage movement around the airport, including the baggage carousel which has been used in its current form for over half a century. Perhaps one day your bag could be transported to your destination for you.

Next time you look at the design of an airport, think about the large amount of work that has gone into designing the facility. There are a number of important considerations and issues that affect planners and designers on a daily basis.


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