Article - Issue 22, March 2005

Terminal 5: History in the Making

Antonia Kimberley and Catherine Jordan

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Andrew Wolstenholme © Mark Crick

Andrew Wolstenholme © Mark Crick

The construction of Heathrow’s Terminal 5 is characterised by a new approach to project and design management.

BAA’s T5 Project Director, Andrew Wolstenholme, and Head of Design Management, Dervilla Mitchell, were the guest speakers at The Royal Academy of Engineering’s New Year’s Reception and Lecture on 19 January. Hosted by the Academy President, Lord Broers, the Lecture focused on the management and design principles underpinning the project’s success.

In context – the Terminal 5 development

Owned and operated by BAA plc, Heathrow airport is the busiest international airport in the world. Today, Heathrow handles 67 million passengers a year, but its original infrastructure was designed for far less. To increase the airport’s capacity to 95 million passengers a year, BAA will open one of the world’s most advanced new airport terminal facilities in March 2008.

Construction began on the £4.2 billion Terminal 5 development in July 2002. Currently one of Europe’s biggest and most complex construction programmes, it includes two terminal buildings, a network of over 13km of bored tunnels, a new air traffic control tower, airfield infrastructure, a 4000 space multi-story car park and a hotel. Just over 3000 workers are employed on the project, but a total of 50,000 people will have been part of this project overall. The integrated client and construction team has reached 50% completion on time and within budget, and has exceeded its own safety record.

A new approach to project management

BAA will spend £1 billion – around £80 million per month – on the development of T5 this year. By the time T5 is finished, it will be the fourth largest airport in Europe in its own right. The scale of the development is such that the 13km twin transport tunnels to the central area of T5 are a major engineering feat in themselves. The logistics of the site are particularly challenging, as 100 deliveries have to be dealt with each hour and 20,000 hot meals are required each day.

In this context, a new style of project management was developed to deal with the unique challenges of Terminal 5. T5’s Project Director Andrew Wolstenholme describes “integrated team working” as the key to ensuring that the safety, quality, and budget constraints are all met on target and lead to an “environment for success”. To reinforce this idea BAA introduced the T5 Agreement, a new form of contract based on relationships and behaviours. Aiming to expose and manage risk rather than transferring it to external sources, the T5 Agreement states that:“ BAA holds all the risk associated with the development. By removing that burden from the supply chain, suppliers can work as part of the integrated team and can focus on delivery of the project”. BAA will also reimburse the suppliers’ costs and “guarantee an element of profit alongside an incentive payment if exceptional performance is achieved. ”As the Agreement explains, “Success is in everyone’s interest”.

Demonstrating teamwork through design: building for 30 million people

Designed and engineered by Arup, with architects Richard Rogers Partnership and steel manufacturer Severfield Rowen, T5 has been described as engineering of Brunellian proportions. The teamwork so fundamental to the project management of the terminal can also be found in the design management.

One of the characteristics of T5’s spectacular design is the single span 156.6m roof of the main terminal building, which creates a flexible internal space for vertical circulation and passenger routes. The innovative design allows BAA to alter the building internally in the future without the constraint of roof columns.

The innovative design would not have been possible without applying the principles of risk management to the design and construction process. The main roof nodes and rafters were prefabricated and assembled into the largest pieces that could be transported to the site. As Dervilla Mitchell, Head of Design Management, explains, “This reduced the amount of work that would be done under more hazardous site conditions, thus improving safety and programme certainty. It also reduced the number of vehicles moving on and offsite”.

Elegant design, practical construction and risk management were integrated in the use of ‘the stand jacking construction method’. The central 117m arch section of the roof was assembled at ground level and the roofing was applied before being jacked up approximately 40m into its final position. Assembling the roof at a low level reduced the risks of working at height, and allowed cranes to operate below the ‘inner horizontal plane’ that is imposed by the airport operations. “This early erection of the roof allowed the superstructure frame and fit out services to be built under cover and led to greater programme certainty”, says Dervilla.

Similarly, the air traffic control tower also had to be assembled in a way which minimised disruption to airport operations. The top 27m of the tower – including the visual control room – was constructed and partially fitted out on a site near Terminal 4.This 900 tonne section was then moved almost 2km to its final site in the centre of the airfield adjacent to Terminal 3.To complete the structure, jacking was used again to lift five 12m steel mast sections skyward. The construction of the roof and control tower thus effectively combine innovative designs with the new approach to project management which characterises the development of Terminal 5.

Modernising the industry

So does Terminal 5 represent ‘History in the making’? Andrew Wolstenholme believes that it does. He feels that the new approach to project management as set out in the T5 Agreement will help the industry change for the better. He would like Terminal 5 to be compared to iconic buildings of the past, such as the Eiffel Tower or the Empire State Building, but with the improved safety standards and the sense of stability that can be traced directly back to the innovative concept of integrated team work so crucial to this project.

Antonia Kimberley
Terminal 5 Media Relations Manager

Catherine Jordan
Assistant Editor, Ingenia

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