I just watched my favorite show in Discovery Channel – Man Made Marvels featuring Singapore’s Changi Airport. I just love the show because it showcased detailed information in building this cool airport’s terminal 3 – radical roof design that opens up at certain time of the day, and about improving the whole runways without disrupting the busiest airport in Southeast Asia. The fact that the terminal 3 airport’s roof is the biggest heaviest roof there is, surely, this airport is a man made marvel. This one, is simply, a battle of ‘air supremacy’.
In the Southeast Island states, Singapore is considered as an economic giant. Its success lies in its location where it’s sort of, a crossing point between two worlds. This made the place Asia’s first aviation hub, which can accommodate a staggering more than 10 000 people.
Of course, there are rivals in terminal efficiencies. Along with South Korea, Hong Kong and Kuala Lumpur, Singapore can accommodate more passengers there is, and it is equally important to design the new terminal with a maximum capacity in mind to meet rising demands.
Terminal 3 is the largest terminal with stunningly designs: spacious walls of glass and a giant see-through roof, plus the captivating indoor greenery of bold designs of grass, greenery and natural lighting! But everything that is in there didn’t just materialize out in thin air. Terminal 3 is more like 63 soccer fields in size that can cater to more than 20 million. To top it all off, it can accommodate the world’s passenger jet, the Airbus A380. There are surely challenges that needed to be dealt with. At the heart of the airport are vital runways that can’t be shut down when the construction of the largest and heaviest roof begins. It is a dangerous process, and definitely, there are issues of safety in here.
The ingenious dominant design of the terminal three is made possible through the Lee Harryman, the Project Manager of CPG Consultants, the same design firm who worked Changi Airport’s Terminal 2 and 3. It is very crucial to build these for seven years in timely cost-effective manner. Even more crucial is building the heaviest roof, that would certainly make up the airport’s distinctive element – unique skylights to let the
natural lighting come through the whole building. It would minimize electricity use, surely.
Building the roof is a colossal task, mainly because it is heavy, of about 74,000 tons in weight. It would be a challenge to build this through cranes, as cranes may not be able to handle the whole foundation. So the solution is to prefabricate the roof in ten sections, and install the trusses one by one through a special ingenious method – transferring the trusses with the use of ten hydraulic jets, working exactly in the same pace, and mind you, the whole job really demands accuracy and precision.
One of the outstanding features about the roof is that it’s flat, which makes it differ from those conventional roofs out there. But with this design comes another stumbling block for the engineers: there should be an efficient draining system for the flat roof. Engineers need to face the forces of nature: the country’s tropical climate and its fierce tropical typhoons that could pose serious damage for the roof. Surely the flat roof stands out with its design, but it’s no good if it would collapse in immense strain due to the extreme rainfall conditions. But using advance technology and engineering, the designers manage to come up super efficient draining systems for the terminal. So cool!
Another superb thing about the airport is the glass walls. But the designers and engineers need to rethink the transparent design. So how would the glass deal with the sun’s unbearable heat? It may as well make the whole terminal 3 the world’s largest greenhouse there is. But the designer firm expert in glass mechanics and responsible for the glass walls, Hugh Doughton and Associates came out with really ingenious plans about the nature of the glass to be constructed. They came out with the idea of heat-eliminating glass, and this glass is tainted, embedded with dots to absorb heat, and finally selectively coated to be able to filter 70% of sun’s radiation. So the whole safety issue regarding the temperature of inside the terminal is readily solved. But aside from this, the engineers found out that when it comes to the terminal security weaknesses, the glass walls definitely pose threats of terrorism. So what the engineers and the designers did was to reinforce the glass design against bomb threats, as they found out that the glass entrance wall in the façade is the weakest in terms of security measures. So they built bullet-proof glass and they also put cable net walls that deflect 20 times and is safer against natural weather occurrences. The 15 km thick cables are indeed clear cuts indication of safety.
Singapore, considered as Asia’s Garden City takes the indoor design of the terminal 3 into a landscaping to the next level. When you arrive at the terminal you would surely feel good with the tropical greenery and the ambiance and the comfort the indoor landscape would give you. But how do they do it – taking landscaping to the next level without worrying the possibility of natural lighting overdose that could eventually kill the greenery? The project manager Christopp Gapp, together with his team devised a plan to control the indoor light level to manipulate the light that comes inside the terminal. Before building what they call skylights, they first made a scale model and found out that it is indeed successful. The skylights consist of butterfly panels that are controlled through motion sensors. So the terminal roof would allow soft daylight only at certain time of the day, and these panels would also change position with the sun’s changing position in the sky, sort of. Amazing really.
The runways of Changi airport was also strengthen, and the fact that the airport doesn’t have shut the everyday operational system is so cool. This runway makeover consists of widening the runways for another nine meters, to make way for the airbus A380. With the team’s super fast solutions, they did it, and they also manage to improve the baggage handling system.
Yep, I am always amazed with these stuffs.