Abu Dhabi Airport received another boost in February as the UAE Government gave the go-ahead to build its Midfield Terminal Complex. Tom Allett reports.
Although it was once in Dubai’s shadow, Abu Dhabi International Airport (ADIA) has had its fair share of positive headlines recently. It continues to enjoy one of the fastest growth rates in the world – exceeding 19.7% over the last five years – largely thanks to the rapid development of its hub airline, Etihad Airways, and the increasing attraction of Abu Dhabi as a destination for business and leisure. The airport currently handles in excess of 12 million passengers per year and ADIA expects that “robust” growth over the next 20 years means that it will need to improve its facilities to accommodate the increased traffic demand.
Forecasts predict that ADIA will be handling some 20 million passengers within a few years and the next stage of its regeneration plan – the construction of its Midfield Terminal Complex (MTC), and its terminal building (MTB) – were given the green light on February 1.
Abu Dhabi 2030
The airport’s operator, the Abu Dhabi Airport Company (ADAC), is in charge of delivering a section of the UAE Government’s Abu Dhabi 2030 plan; an Emirate-wide strategy to cater for Abu Dhabi’s business and tourism growth.
Since this expansion was initiated in 2006, a new 13,451ft x 197ft (4,100m x 60m) runway was completed in 2008, enabling the unrestricted operation of ‘next generation’ Code F Airbus A380 aircraft.
Terminal 3, the current home of Etihad Airways, was opened in 2008 with a floor area of 753,474sq ft (70,000m2) and 33 check–in counters. Then, in 2011, a new 361ft (110m)-high air traffic control tower was commissioned, the highest in the region, with on-site training facilities. The most recently completed landmark was the total refurbishment of its Terminal 1 in 2011 and, now, it is time for the next step forward.
The MTC is the centrepiece of ADAC’s multi-billion dirham investment programme and will be the primary international gateway for Emirate and the future home of Etihad Airways. It will provide passenger and cargo facilities, duty free shops and restaurants for an initial capacity of around 27-30 million people a year.
The facility will be built between the airport’s two runways, hence the Midfield name. The location allows for the shortest possible taxiing journey from runway to parking stand, thereby enhancing its operational efficiency and providing a slicker passenger experience.
The MTC’s terminal building will be the largest in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, and, says ADAC: “one of the region’s most architecturally impressive structures”. Covering around 7,534,737sq ft (700,000m2), it has a ceiling height of 170ft 6in (52m), making it visible from more than a mile (1.5km) away.
Inside the complex around 269,097sq ft (25,000m2) of floor space will be dedicated to retail and food and beverage outlets that are set around a 90,416sq ft (8,400m2) indoor park that will have Mediterranean plants and features at its centre and desert landscapes at its edge.
ADAC also says that it could potentially build dedicated cargo buildings covering an additional 8,611,128sq ft (800,000m2), which would provide 16 to 20 parking stands, depending on aircraft size.
ADAC requires an environmentally friendly facility and says that the MTC is being developed by an “international, multicultural team,” which includes members who have had important roles at Atlanta, Chicago, Singapore Changi and London’s Heathrow Terminal 5. The terminal building’s design makes use of angled glass facades to reduce the level of heat entering the building while providing natural lighting for its interior. Solid cladding has also been integrated in the design, further reducing the solar, thermal impact on the building.
Environmental design initiatives under evaluation also include water conservation schemes using grey and waste water for the irrigation of outdoor plants.
Following the completion of extensive site preparation, piling and foundation works during the last two years, construction of the MTB is due to start in the second quarter of 2012 with its opening date set for the first half of 2017.
Commenting on the UAE Government’s approval, His Excellency Khalifa Al Mazrouei, Chairman of ADAC, said: “The approval of the Executive Council on the capacity expansion programme for Abu Dhabi International Airport confirms Abu Dhabi’s commitment to deliver a world class airport for the emirate that will be on a par with the best international airports in the world.” His Excellency added: “This development represents one of the largest investments by the government to deliver the needed infrastructure, in line with Abu Dhabi Plan 2030, that will cater to the growth of the aviation sector in the region and confirms Abu Dhabi’s strong position in the global air transportation network. ADAC looks forward to appointing the Midfield Terminal Building contractors and creating this key infrastructure asset for the Emirate of Abu Dhabi.”
Tenders for a general contractor to undertake the terminal’s construction contracts were received in November 2011. They are still under consideration but an announcement is expected very soon.
ADAC says that further capacity increases in the existing terminals are also planned to “handle increasing volumes of transfer passengers prior to the opening of the new terminal”. Its capacity enhancement programme will include the development of a passenger arrival hall, security screening facilities and additional Airbus A380-capable gates and stands. In parallel with the MTB, the East Midfield will be developed: a new support area that would include facilities for cargo handling, in-flight catering, ground handling, “and other ancillary facilities” that support the growth of the airport.
ADAC notes that as ADIA has “significant land reserves” and free trade zone status, ADAC is working with private investors to develop “complementary commercial activities” on the airport. Current projects include a new hotel linked to Terminal 3 and a business park for Terminal 3.