Swati Sanyal Tarafdar
In September 2014, the Airports Authority of India (AAI) had announced that it would be building 50 low-cost, no-frills airports all over the country. This is in tandem with its Policy on Airports that clearly lays down that “The quality of airport infrastructure, which is a vital component of the overall transportation network, contributes directly to a country’s international competitiveness and the flow of foreign investment.” To emphasize the importance of upgrading the airport infrastructure in the country, it clearly depicts that “while cargo carried by air in India weighs less than 1% of the total cargo exported, it accounts for 35% of the total value of exports. Better cargo handling facilities lead to enhanced levels of importation, especially of capital goods and high-value items. Likewise, 97% of the country’s foreign tourists arrive by air and tourism is the nation’s second largest foreign exchange earner.” This is only one aspect of revenue generation and associated infrastructure, design, and execution considerations around airports.
Evolution of Smart Airports
In a study on Airport Evolution titled Smart Airports: Transforming Passenger Experience To Thrive in the New Economy in July 2009, Cisco Internet Business Solutions Group (IBSG) projected two significant characteristics of new age, sustainable, airports that convert passenger comfort to revenue generation.
- Agile Airports: According to the report, these agile airports adapt well to a changing environment and fast-paced operational tempo. It says, “Technology-enabled collaboration is highly evolved throughout these airports and is implemented across business units and functional silos. Business entities and ecosystem partners share information quickly and seamlessly, enabling agile airports to respond rapidly to environmental and operational changes. By employing a centralized and shared services strategy, agile airports often preclude tenant deployment of single-use and proprietary technologies. Instead, an airport-wide, converged network architecture offers shared services on a common services platform. Tenants take advantage of services such as managed communications, IP telephony, broadband, Wi-Fi, and video surveillance at competitive market prices, without the need to deploy and maintain their own technology solutions. From a business value perspective, the agile airport offers advanced operational efficiencies, enabling faster turnaround times for airlines, faster set-up times for tenants, and improved passenger experience.”
The study showcases the London Heathrow Airport, the Toronto Pearson International Airport, and the Hong Kong International Airport as examples of agile airports.
- Smart Airports: The study suggests that smart airports fully exploit the power of emerging and maturing technologies. It says, “Systems are built around a “digital grid”: a single, converged, often carrier-class IP network that enables high-speed broadband traffic throughout the entire ecosystem, including the airport, airport city, airlines, seaport, logistics, authorities, and other parties. The digital grid is the airport’s nervous system, touching and managing every point of interaction.
The public-private participation is the only way to look forward for creating global planned facilities within our country. For executing a comprehensive aviation road map, he says, “We need to have an integrated approach towards creating holistic infrastructure network, last mile connectivity, inter-modality and well-planned interface between various transportation systems to avoid obstacles, hurdles and mushrooming growth at the various city centers.”
He also advises that apart from saving resources and ensuring lesser negative impact on the environment through sustainable design and development, it is also important to care for the passenger’s convenience and their health while they are at the airports. “With the increase in airborne microbes creating havoc on human health, it is essential to have good indoor air quality and ambience in the airport. Adopting green measures and sustainable designs would not only ensure huge savings on short term and long term airport operations, but also reduce overall construction cost of the airport, by enabling the selection of the right design and development,” he says.
Sustainability Induced Developments
When the newly renovated integrated domestic and international terminal of the Mumbai airport, the Terminal 2, was thrown open for the public in early 2014, there were sighs of appreciation. At 4.4 million square feet, it’s the second largest airport in India, serving approximately 40 million travelers every year. That’s almost double the figure from the old building.
In the new four-story terminal, highly adaptable and modular concourses spread out from a grand central processing podium allowing optimization of operations and reducing passenger-walking distances. Talking about the spacious drop-off zones, regional patterns and textures, etc, Mr Kothari of Conserve Consultants, partners in the renovation, informs that the Chhatrapati Sivaji International Airport (CSIA) is also one of their model airports in India in terms of Energy Management, Water Resource Management, Sustainable Design and Operation. He informs that CSIA has achieved an energy saving of `310 million over a year, lower than ASHRAE baseline energy cost and has achieved “Performance Delivered” rating.
In water management, CSIA has outperformed LEED India baseline by an astonishing 200 million liters of saving per year, and stands out in performance and in substantial reduction in the usage of natural resources and reduction of harmful materials in the infrastructure by green sourcing. In particular, one of the challenges Conserve Consultants faced in the CSIA project was the utilization of daylight harvesting. For this, Conserve Consultants used specially designed lenses on the skylighting to bring glare-free, diffused light into the T2 Terminal.
The Chennai International Airport is the first inter-modal hub in the country that connects the domestic and international terminals of the airport with the metro station, railway station and bus stand, making departure as well as arrival hassle-free and comfortable for passengers. Creative Group designed the airport with a unique design concept that of a winged form of a bird in which twin-curved roofs intersperse with this skylights and an exposed ceiling with hot bended circular sections is used for the first time in India. The mega design of the airport provides a high level of sustainability in all aspects including restoration of native landscape, passive energy conservation, material selection and onsite water treatment.
The Domestic Vijayawada Terminal follows a minimalistic design with a touch of modernistic and sleek aspects with the use of a glass facade. The Swami Vivekananda Airport, Raipur, however has a very dynamic avion shaped terminal building with an absolutely green city side development. It maximises daylighting and minimizes heat gain within the building. The building is fully enveloped and insulated with double roof sheeting, insulating glass, and with AAC insulating blocks in the external walls, which minimizes heat gain. All aspects of ECBC code in terms of intelligent building management systems in reducing water and energy consumption, conservation of natural resources etc have been adhered to. A natural lake or water body to store storm water for recycling and reusing has also been built in the landscape. It’s no surprise that it has been awarded the greenest and the ‘Best Airport of the Country in the Non-Metro Category’ for three consecutive years since 2013 by the Union Tourism Ministry, and ranks number 1 in overall customer satisfaction (July-Dec 2014) in the Non-Metro Category.
Professor Shah of Creative Group, who was involved in the design and consultation for the airports in Chennai, Goa, Raipur, Vadodara, and more, says that although it is very difficult to execute such green and sustainable buildings, it is possible, nevertheless, with minute planning. “Cost can be curtailed by understanding and addressing various issues at the planning stage so that the passive strategy of design can be adopted. This allows using cost-effective and best practices for controlling heat gains, avoiding use of undesired materials, and promote the creation of sustainable architecture,” According to him, no building should be treated as a mass of brick and concrete. Rather, treat them as living organisms that breathe and grow, are vibrant and environment-friendly.
New age products and technologies
Professor Shah informs that in the past few decades, there have been tremendous advancements in materials and innovations in technology. So much so that as a designer, one can now visualize and create the best of infrastructure. An understanding of material and technology leads to modulation of a systematic approach to planned development, sustainability, energy efficiency, and these help in creating net zero built forms.
He adds that “although it is general perception that airports are energy guzzlers, an understanding of various elements of the ECBC code and green architecture (GRIHA/ LEED), keeping in view the elements of design in consideration with the ancient Vastu with respect to solar movement, orientation envelope of a building, mutual shading and material application – all these should be correlated for creating a smart and sustainable airport design.”
He informes that the smooth top sheet used in the Chennai airport runs for 164 metres, the longest in India and Asia.
Elevators & escalators are the other products in demand from the airport industry. Sensing a good demand of elevators, escalators and travellators from the Indian market, many global players have set their base in the country wherein KONE is one of them which offers a wide range of escalators and autowalk solutions to meet all types of customer requirements in airports. All KONE escalators and autowalks are based on innovative, eco-efficient technology, and have a harmonized visual design, making it easy to combine different types of solutions in the same building.
He adds, “In airports, passengers need to move quickly and conveniently between the check-in areas and departure gates in order to reach their aircraft well in time. KONE solutions help manage the flow of people into and through the airport safely, reliably, and efficiently.”
Emphasizing on using high technology and offering effective services for winning the heart of customers, Mr. Gossain says, “It is important to use the right technology and have the right service attitude. Like any other industry, maintenance in this industry is critical. Airports are places where there is high usage of our products and solutions and hence providing on-time service to prevent any breakdown is key. As an organization we are well geared to meet all situations. Quality & safety are the basic fundamentals for any company to move from good to great and we are strong in both aspects.
With commercial presence in over 100 countries and 2,50,000 units in operation across the globe, Orona has a solution for every need in people’s mobility. It specializes in designing, directing, and channeling people flow, to make the urban infrastructure accessible with systems designed to deal with the traffic, and provide comfort.
He adds that elevator systems can also be designed for restricted entry through control access technology, thereby providing an additional layer of security. For instance, when authorized airport personnel insert a valid card into the elevator card reader, they will be allowed access to a defined number of floors. This ensures that only authorized persons can visit a specific floor. Freight elevators for airports are different from passenger elevators because they carry heavier loads, have wider doors, are taller and avoid glass materials.
“Most infrastructure projects, including airports, aim for environmental sustainability” says, Mr. Gaurav Moudgil, “The Orona 3G lifts have an energy storage system that has the lift itself as the central element, storing energy that comes from the lift and from renewable energy sources to revert it to the different energy consumption elements in the building. Orona 3G elevator also has machine-room less (MRL) elevators. These elevators replace large elevator rooms by locating a compact hoisting machine on the top of the elevator shaft. Compared to systems with machine rooms, the compact gearless machine consumes less electricity and saves on other building costs because it does not take up an entire room for parts and equipment.”
Air travel in India has grown phenomenally over the past decade and the country, at a size of about $16 billion, is currently the ninth largest civil aviation market. It is projected to become the third largest in the world by 2020, and the largest by 2030. This is the right time for the airport construction sector in the country to share knowledge and appropriate costs to become smarter, greener, sustainable, agile, and revenue-efficient.