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The X factor

What does Abu Dhabi International Airport’s new Midfield Terminal Building have in store for passengers? Joe Bates investigates.

There is a saying that the best things in life are worth waiting for, and in the case of Abu Dhabi International Airport’s new Midfield Terminal Building (MTB) this is certainly true, as it will transform the Etihad hub into one of the most impressive, exciting and customer friendly gateways in the world.

That maybe a bold statement, but there is no denying that when the eagerly awaited $3 billion MTB opens in late 2017, the airport will be unrecognisable from the one we know today and boast state-of-the-art facilities, IT systems and some of the most innovative retail/F&B concepts on the planet.

In short, the 700,000sqm MTB will not only look spectacular but it will also boost Abu Dhabi International Airport’s capacity to over 45 million passengers a year. 

The terminal itself will be capable of accommodating 30mppa and contain over 28,000sqm of retail and F&B space; 156 check-in desks and 48 self service kiosks; 30,000sqm of lounges; its own three-star hotel; and 65 contact stands including eight capable of handling the A380.


Sustainable development and traffic growth

And they will be required as the airport is one of the fastest growing hubs in the world, currently handling around 20mppa and more than 50 airlines that between them operate services to 103 destinations in 56 countries. 

Set to become the new home of Etihad Airways and its partners, the MTB gets its name from the fact that it will be located between the airport’s two runways allowing for the shortest possible journey from runway to parking stand. 

According to Abu Dhabi Airports, architects Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates (KPF) and project partners Ove Arup, NACO and BNP Associates have designed the MTB with sustainability in mind.

Indeed, its form, shape, materials used and sophisticated energy and water monitoring systems are expected to ensure a 3 Pearl Design Rating from the Estidama Pearl Building Rating System (PBRS). 

“The MTB is being designed to minimise its impact on the environment and reduce energy consumption by making use of design elements such as high-performance and angled glass facades to avoid heat from entering the building, and making air conditioning more efficient while providing day lighting for interior spaces,” says the airport’s chief operations officer, Ahmad Al Haddabi.

“Solid cladding has also been integrated into the design, further reducing the impact of the sun. The terminal building will house systems to limit the waste of potable water, divert construction waste from landfills and use recycled and local materials wherever possible. 

“A sophisticated building management system and an advanced energy measurement and targeting system will also be in place to allow the energy performance of the building to be recorded and monitored.”


The vision

His Excellency, Ali Majed Al Mansoori, chairman of Abu Dhabi Airports, says that the MTB is the “cornerstone of a broader plan to transform Abu Dhabi International Airport and accomplish our aim of becoming a global transportation hub”. 

He remarks: “As it continues to take shape, with evidence of progress visible on a daily basis, the achievement of that objective draws ever closer.

“More and more people are choosing Abu Dhabi as their preferred location for business, holidays and transit and we are determined to ensure that their experience when they arrive and depart more than meets the standards the modern traveller has come to expect.”


IT innovation and security

The MTB will be one-and-a-half times the size of Heathrow’s Terminal 5 and count
SITA as its technology partner.

As a result SITA will provide the MTB with advanced technology throughout the complex ranging from baggage tracking and handling to flight display systems.

And earlier this year the gateway signed a $125 million contract with Smiths Detection to equip the MTB with a range of systems designed to counter the threat posed by Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Explosives (CBRE) weapons. 

Certainly the MTB’s hold baggage systems include the next generation of high-speed explosive detection systems deploying a combination of X-ray technologies to produce high-resolution images of baggage contents.  

For carry-on baggage screening, ATIX (Advanced Threat Inspection X-Ray) systems will be deployed, supported by trace detection sensors, bottle liquid scanners and radiation detectors. 


Concessions offering

Abu Dhabi Airports wants the MTB’s concessions offerings to set a high bar and it reflected this desire in the tender process by only inviting bids from retail and F&B operators that would “push the boundaries in terms of what passengers might expect” from a world-class facility.

The winners of the various tenders are due to be announced any day now, and are expected to include a lot of interactive and innovative outlets that showcase the world’s top brands.

UK based company, The Design Solution, won the contract for the design and layout of the MTB’s commercial facilities.


The big build

Construction of the MTB began in 2013 and although there is still a lot more to be done, Abu Dhabi Airports reports that work is progressing well and on target for completion in early 2017 ahead of the scheduled opening later that year.

Talking about the mammoth project earlier this year, chief programs officer, Sulaiman Al Siksek, noted: “Although we’ve reached many milestones on this project, the hard work on creating this iconic terminal building continues. 

“We have an army of 20,000 workers on this 3.5million square metre site, supported by a fleet of the latest construction equipment, including 24 tower and mobile cranes. The steelwork for the four piers is complete and good progress is already underway for the enclosure structure, including the glass curtain walling and roofing for the four piers.”

Once the building envelope and glazing for all four piers is finished later this year, the focus will then transition towards work on the inside of the building: fit-out, systems integration and all infrastructure such as the IT and baggage handling system (BHS).

Crisplant, part of the Beumer Group, has been awarded the contract to design, manufacture and install the BHS, which with the capacity to handle over 19,000 bags per hour through its ten reclaim carousels and 27km of conveyors, will be one of the most advanced ever made.


Iconic building

Al Mansoori says: “The Midfield Terminal Building is fast becoming an iconic part of Abu Dhabi’s skyline, clearly visible from more than 1.5 kilometres away. 

“The project is an enormous undertaking that will go a long way towards allowing Abu Dhabi to handle the massive growth in passenger numbers that is expected in the coming years.”

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