The sector is in expansion mode. What's more, moving from just swank to smart, today's airports are focusing on creating landmarks by adopting solar power, PEB roofs, local flavour in design and technologies that optimise the use of energy and water.
When Budget 2016-17 was announced, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley declared plans to revive 160 un-served and underserved airports at an indicative cost of Rs 50 crore to Rs 100 crore each.
Contractor, developer or architect, this news spells positivity across the sector. 'This is a good opportunity for us in both the investment and construction spaces,' says Yogesh Kumar Jain, Managing Director, PNC Infratech. Equally optimistic is Parth Ghosh, Managing Director, Bengal Aerotropolis Projects Ltd, who says,'The announcement presents us with great growth and business opportunities, and we are confident to pitch for and be involved in developing a few of these into airports of the future.' Considering this as an encouraging sign for the sector, a spokesperson for Delhi International Airport (Pvt) Ltd (DIAL) shares, 'The government's emphasis on enhancing regional connectivity is expected to boost domestic air traffic in India and bring several new cities on the aviation map, thereby enhancing connectivity and boosting economic activity.'
Architects are eyeing this opportunity as well. As Ar Gurpreet Shah, Principal Architect, Creative Group, says, 'These airports are majorly in Tier-II, Tier-III and other remote states, and could bring an interesting opportunity to revamp the old master plan and develop long-term passenger facilities to compete with successful regional airports.'
Meanwhile Amber Dubey, Partner & Head-Aerospace & Defence, KPMG India, sees some Tier-II and Tier-III cities now generating the critical mass to attract airlines to fly there, if their airports are revived and supported through viability gap funding (VGF).
He says, 'This will have to be done phase-wise given the financial investments and effort required in convincing airlines to fly there.' Agreeing with him, S Sreekumar, General Manager-Planning, Airports Authority of India, says, 'Every year, on an average, 10 airports can be made functional.'
That considered, achieving the revival of 160 airports would take about 10 to 12 years. He also informs us that of the 160 airports, about 30 non-operational airports come under AAI (see listing on page 48), and the aim is to get them operational in another five years.
Tracking design and trends
The airport is a visitor's first image of any city and hence it needs a certain character, depicting an aspect of the region where it is situated. SR Sikka, Principal, Sikka Associates Architects, supports this thought, saying, 'Airports should be designed such that they are simple to use while they may have complex functions. The best airports in the world achieve this while making an architectural statement that becomes synonymous with the city's style.'
The New Domestic Terminal at Kolkata reflects both state-of-the-art technology and the unique cultural essence of Bengal with the city of Kolkata at its heart. Sikka shares a unique feature: 'The roof of the new terminal is designed to harvest rainwater for both landscaping and washrooms purposes.' The firm has also been involved in the development of the Chandigarh airport, which has received the GRIHA four star rating. Going with recent trends and innovations, floor mounted AC risers have been used for efficient localised air-conditioning. Also, an 18 m cantileverd roof provides shade to the south fatade for solar heat gain protection.
Taking a cue from global success stories, it is evident that India has been setting its own landmarks in airports, both large and low cost.
Scripting a new chapter in aviation history is Cochin International Airport, which operates completely on solar power. Highlighting the cost benefits is AM Shabeer, Executive Director-Engineering Services, Cochin International Airport Ltd (CIAL): 'We spent about Rs 62 crore to create this facility, and save Rs 1 crore per month. Hence, we would recover the invested amount in the next five to six years.' The 12 MWp solar power plant comprises 46,150 solar panels laid across 45 acre. Now, the airport will have 50,000 to 60,000 units of electricity per day, to be consumed for all operational functions. And, even existing airport developments in Hyderabad and Delhi are looking at solar power as a source of cheap energy.
Raipur Airport, one of the greenest airports globally, has received the title of the 'Best Airport of India' from the government. Ar Shah says, 'It is a unique steel structure with Avian roofing, which is a double curved, highly complex roof.'What's more, it features Indian ethnic artwork in the central court with Bastar art providing local flavour. It also consists of a hard green car park, a lake to store rainwater, solar voltaic panels, and IBMS to optimise the use of energy and water.
Creative Group has also worked on the master planning of the Chennai Airport. As Ar Shah points out, 'We have created the first intermodal hub of India by connecting four modes of transport: Air, surface, railway and metro.' Offering seamless connectivity, the transit modes are physically connected with an elevated steel glass tube, which has 28 walkalators. As for the terminal design, its non-operational belly has been scooped out; this has helped save 20 per cent of the built-up area. Oriented north to south, to avoid heat gain and utilise daylight, steel has been predominantly used to provide a strong architectural vocabulary to the terminal.
Talking about his next project, the upcoming Vadodara Airport, Ar Shah says, 'It has a simple structure articulated through repetition in structural trusses, thereby easing construction.' And for the Goa airport, he informs us, 'The portal structure is similar to pre-engineering; it cuts down steel requirement by 35-40 per cent compared to a conventional terminal made in trusses.'
Further, T3 in Delhi is among the first terminals to receive LEED Gold-NC (New Construction) certification. The DIAL spokesperson shares, 'Double-glazed glass fatade with proper U-value, roof glass for sunlight, a highly-efficient electro-mechanical system and SCADA for all type of mechanical and electrical systems to maintain and monitor plant efficiency have been used.' The roofing structure is pre-engineered and prefabricated; the complete fabricated structure weighs over 200 tonne and has a span of 70 m that was lifted through a computer-controlled hydraulic lifting mechanism in one go. An automated building information management system (3D model) has been adopted to ensure clear sequence of work.
As for upcoming large projects, greenfield airports at Navi Mumbai, Mopa, Kannur, Visakhapatnam, etc, are to be developed under the PPP mode. Dubey says, 'With best-in-class infrastructure and amenities, these airports will focus on green structures, use of modular design, prefab material and solar power.' Considering the strong focus on low-cost airports, he adds, 'These would consist of a runway and a basic terminal building; there would be no aerobridges, x-ray machines, baggage handling systems, air-conditioning and, perhaps, no ATC tower.' Hence, if an EPC firm could construct a low-cost airport in months using prefab structures and reducing the cost of material and construction over time, it will hold the edge in all tenders for the airports to be developed by AAI.
The air city
Over time, airports have also evolved into aerotropolises or airport cities owing to the quantum of economic activity centred on them. Internationally, this is evident from major airports including Shiphol Airport, Hong Kong International Airport, Memphis International Airport, etc, which have self-sustaining cities created around them. Shabeer affirms, 'World over, there is a philosophy of an aviation space generating more revenue (around 50-70 per cent) from the non-aeronautical site and relatively lesser revenue (30-35 per cent) from the aeronautical site.' Here, the non-aeronautical revenue supports the overall development of the airport too. However, this is not yet the case in India, though Cochin Airport is still trying to meet a similar ratio. The aerocity being developed around the airport includes an 18-hole golf course, one of the biggest exhibition halls in Kerala, an upcoming commercial mall, and other developments yet to come up.
Also, Indira Gandhi International Airport aerocity has emerged as a preferred hospitality and commercial hub for the NCR in its first phase, with about 2,800 hotel rooms operational and about another 2,000 under construction. Now, there is also a retail and commercial office complex that will house several leading organisations and brands.
Further, Ghosh shares, 'The already commissioned airport at Sujalaam Skycity is likely to improve the prospects of the hospitality sector.' The Skycity is also poised to house several industries in its almost 200-acre industrial park.
Reputed hospitals operate in the immediate catchment zone, and educational institutes cater to a large number of outstation students and educationists. In keeping with the concept of the aerocity, Guy Perry, President-Cities + Strategy, Essel Infra & Utilities, says, 'If we take up larger airports, we intend to look beyond just the airport to make an appropriate urban environment, which is in synergy with the airport itself. It may even be as close to being able to walk out of the terminal into the other environment.'
Success of PPP
In the Eleventh Five-Year Plan, overall investment by private airport operators in the construction of greenfield airports in Bengaluru and Hyderabad, and the modernisation and extension of Delhi and Mumbai airports, totalled Rs 300 billion ($5.4 billion). As for the Twelfth Five-Year Plan, Ghosh shares, 'Estimated investment in the airport sector is set at Rs 675 billion ($12.7 billion), of which 75 per cent is anticipated to be funded by the private sector.'
While the public sector benefits by way of greater access to private-sector financing, which releases the government's budget for the social sectors, private participation brings in better investment decisions, bottom-line orientation and operating efficiencies or improved management practices into the public sector.
However, Sreekumar does not support the PPP mode for the development of an aerodrome owing to the safety and security issues involved. Also, Jain opines, 'In case of construction, strengthening or resurfacing of airfield pavements and installation of airfield lighting, navigational and communication aids, etc, on a standalone basis, EPC mode is the best suited format.'
In order for PPP to be successful, there should be complete control on time and cost. As Shabeer says, 'In most new-generation airports, the specs being adopted are more superlative than seen in the West, which impacts costing.' Jain adds that PPP can be a successful mode only when risks and rewards are allocated to both the partners and other stakeholders of the framework in a prudent, judicious and balanced manner. He rightly says, 'It cannot be generalised as to which implementation model would best suite the PPP projects.'
This would depend on the nature of the project, whether it is a greenfield or a brownfield and their traffic potential.
While Dubey is confident that PPP would be successful for airports with good traffic potential, for smaller airports under PPP, he says, 'The Centre and state governments may have to work out an incentive package to reduce capital expenditure by the private partner and provide VGF to airlines to operate to such airports. Else, inviting the private sector for small airports may be a non-starter.'
Experts believe that no-frill greenfield airports can be developed for Rs 150-200 crore, excluding land cost. Dubey says, 'The estimate would vary from place to place depending on terrain, soil quality, logistics and other local issues.' Ar Shah goes on to share the example of Raipur Airport, designed by his firm, where the cost has been as low as Rs 75,000 per sq m, without compromising on quality, functionality and user experience. He says, 'Across the world, it goes as high as Rs 10 lakh per sq m, whereas in our metropolitan cities like Delhi and Mumbai, it can vary between Rs 2 lakh and Rs 3.5 lakh per sq m.'
In fact, India is expected to become the third largest aviation market by 2020. The government's proposal to promote the growth of the sector will have a multiplier effect on the economy at large. After a downslide for two years, exponential growth is now being witnessed in both domestic and international sectors. However, in this scenario, Sreekumar views airport infrastructure development as a big challenge, saying, 'As per estimates, in the next five years, the capacity required in various airports will be two to three times the current capacity.' Ghosh agrees that India is underprepared for the growth challenges ahead and that the country needs to plan for investments of up to $40 billion in airport development by 2025, including the construction of up to 50 greenfield airports.
A slew of new airports such as Navi Mumbai, Mopa (Goa), Bhogapuram (Visakhapatnam), Agra, Kannur, Singrauli and Kushinagar are on the anvil to be developed in PPP mode. Apart from existing brownfield airports, Jain says, 'Major investments are envisaged in greenfield airports, which would also generate opportunities for construction and equipment companies.'
Rather than being seen as an elitist industry, aviation is now being recognised as a major driver of economic growth. Despite the push for development of low-cost, no-frills airports, there is still a wide gap between planned and actual expenditure required for coping with the increasing demand for air travel in India. However, the sector has started to take wing and it's clearly time to fasten our seatbelts!
Recommendations for growth
While India is set to adopt cost-effective design and technologies to develop our airports, CW brings together select industry recommendations to rev up the sector:
The construction industry must proactively innovate for quicker and cheaper construction of airports - large and small.
To keep costs low, the airport should be expanded sequentially in a modular fashion rather than being built to full capacity initially.
India must spend to develop a world-class air navigation services infrastructure with rigorous emphasis on safety, cost-efficiency and environmental awareness.
Under PPP, a collaborative approach with multiple stakeholders should be followed. Being long gestation assets, airports require a low-cost source of funding for development of infrastructure under PPP.
Relaxation of land use restrictions for brownfield airports will bring them on par with greenfield airports.
Airports should be developed within the framework of a national aviation master plan û integrated into an overall national transportation plan - that recognises clear economic explanations for constructing an airport.
Delhi Airport's ATC Tower
Among the world's tallest, India's tallest and earthquake-resistant to boot, the new air traffic control (ATC) tower in Delhi has started creating headlines even before being operational. To be launched at one of India's busiest airports, Indira Gandhi International Airport, the 22-storey tower stands tall at almost 102 m. Offering a 360o view of the three runways, apron area and taxiway, the tower has 21 controller positions in its visual control room and 12 ground controller positions at operational level. It also has an administrative block for Airports Authority of India officials and area control and approach control centres along with a air traffic flow management system.
Unique technology: Supporting the ATC tower is a 50-tonne tuned mass damper that prevents the tower from extra sway during critical winds. Used for the first time in India, this damper, adopted by Delhi International Airport Ltd (DIAL), produces a counter-balancing and stabilising force, ensuring structural protection and occupant comfort.
Earthquake resistant: Designed to survive zone-5 seismic forces, the energy dissipation technique makes structures safe against excessive vibrations that occur owing to a seismic event or other eventuality. The energy emitted from the vibrations is absorbed by the energy dissipation device, keeping the building safe and sound. Par excellence: Setting height records, the greatest challenge in the construction of the tower is its complex geometry, modern shape and slenderness ratio, ie, minimum plan dimension and height. The tower's side walls change continuously, slanting inwards or outwards. One of the leanest towers in the world, ATC's height is 13 times its minimum plan dimension.
In keeping with ongoing and upcoming trends in airport planning, several companies are offering technologies that take airports to new heights.
Delhi International Airport Terminal 3 (T3) is an example of an outstanding structure developed with steel structural system. Interarch executed the structural steel works for T3's piers along with the entire roofing system for the terminal building. Gautam Suri, Founder Director & CTO, Interarch Building Products, says, 'Interarch has offered a design solution for the terminal building piers, saving the customer in steel tonnage as well as minimising construction time by almost 40 per cent. Converting the project to a pre-engineered steel system ensured execution speed and overall longevity of the project design. T3's roof covers more than 45 acre. On completing the structural steel design, in-house manufacturing and execution for the steel package of the project, operations commenced on the pre-engineered seven-layer roofing system. The T3 project required multiple handling of pre-engineered construction activities spread over almost 5 sq km. The result: One of the largest and most fast-paced projects undertaken by any developer on Indian soil.
With its highly innovative and user-friendly mobility solutions, Schindler has been a partner in several prestigious projects. One of its biggest challenges in the construction of Mumbai's CSIA was to create infrastructure in limited space without disturbing ongoing airport operations. 'Schindler will be supplying more than 140 units of elevators, escalators and moving walks.
A total of 130 units have already been installed at T2, CSIA,' informs Antony Parokaran, CEO, Schindler-India. Features supporting these mobility solutions include higher passenger handling capacity; higher degree of safety factors (IP ratings, fire ratings); remote monitoring systems; fire alarm systems integration; seismic operation; energy-efficiency; and access control system.
The result: A 'solution advantage' that hugely facilitated mobility of passengers in T2. Energy consumption continues to be one of the biggest operational costs in airports. Here, HVAC becomes critical as India looks to build new airports and modernise older ones. Delhi's T3 was one of the largest buildings in the country in volume, requiring a significant amount of cooling and climate control. Carrier Air-Conditioning and Refrigeration provided eight Evergreen 19XRD centrifugal chillers of 2,500 tonne each for this project. This was Carrier's largest single-unit cooling capacity chiller back then, designed to improve indoor air quality and provide environmental benefits. The result: These energy-efficient solutions help bring down operational costs while providing greater comfort for passengers.
The biggest trend driving IBMS in airports is implementing integrated systems and doing away with multiple products from different vendors, operational silos, etc. Priyanshu Singh, Country General Manager, Honeywell Building Solutions, says, 'Managing so many systems, operational 24/7, is a constant challenge, especially when factoring in the astounding growth of air passenger and cargo traffic.' In a terminal, Honeywell recommends building management systems, energy management, fire sensors and detectors, and fire alarm aspiration sensing technology (FAAST). On the runway, it offers solutions for runway lighting/taxiway lights, pilot safety; control and monitoring system; ground traffic management; visual docking guidance systems; and systems for approaching and landing. The result: Improved real-time emergency response, increased operational efficiency and maximised ROI, enhanced control capabilities, reduced costs and improved efficiencies.
Modern airports are a gateway to all the benefits air travel has to offer as the safest and most efficient form of transportation. Singh says, 'The company's enterprise buildings integrator mobile brings power in your hand that allows facility managers and owners to be on top of their safety and surveillance needs. The digital video manager mobile brings the power of smart surveillance in your hands by providing mobility to the user.' Usage of the app empowers building managers to enhance premise patrols with the help of high-definition streaming of single and multi-cameras along with camera operations, PTZ, zoom, tour, record footage and playback, and a video timeline. The result: Meeting national and international regulations, improving efficiency of security operations, increasing system availability and providing increased security, comfort and convenience to passengers.
Achieving high-performance sustainable airports
Airports are the nodes and pulses of the modern day world, or let's say the highly connected global village. Considering the mammoth size and structures, the major challenge is whether they are being effective at the cost of being efficient. Hence, there is a need for sustainability, ie, the ability to sustain throughout the lifecycle of an airport, says Juzer S Kothari, Managing Director, Conserve Consultants.
'During the planning phase and design development of airport mega-structures, we need to ensure mandatory building compliances and standards are met and respective performance is improved upon,' he adds. 'Also, we should manage operations and maintenance in a sustainable manner.'
For Conserve Consultants, sustainability and profitability go hand in hand. The firm has undertaken projects with this mindset and most of their solutions have a marginal or no cost increase, thereby ensuring a lower payback period resulting in profitability. 'During the development of the Mumbai International Airport,' Kothari elaborates,'we ensured all mandatory compliances were met at the planning and design stage itself, to translate the sustainable plan seamlessly into a tangible output.' This also made the LEED India Gold certification an easy task as building performance was already taken to a higher level.'
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