Talking About an AirVolution

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-By Aleisha Parr

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2011 marked the laying of the foundation stone for the construction of Canberra Airport’s new Western Concourse Terminal. ACT Chief Minister Katy Gallagher, Canberra Airport Chairman Terry Snow and Canberra Airport Managing Director Stephen Byron were on hand for this exciting commencement of the second phase of Canberra Airport’s ongoing “AirVolution” transformation project.

“This infrastructure will deliver an important economic boost to the Canberra region, continuing to help drive growth in the construction, tourism and transport economies,” said Mr Byron in a recent press release marking the laying of the foundation stone for the Western Concourse Terminal. “Whether you live in Canberra or whether you are a visitor, the focus of this new airport is the passenger experience – we want to try to deliver the best small airport in the world.”

The AirVolution, which Canberra Airport’s Head of Aviation, Matthew Brown describes as “the complete reconstruction of the terminal precinct,” is a $420 million infrastructure investment totalling over 150,000 square metres of new buildings and civil works upgrades, including two distinct concourse terminals, a central atrium and numerous new car park areas and associated road infrastructure.

To date, approximately half of the milestone development has been finished and is already in use, with the recent completion in November of 2010 of the Southern Concourse Terminal. In addition to the 26,000 square metre Southern Concourse Terminal itself, the first phase of construction included two on-grade car parks, with spaces for approximately one thousand cars between them; the first of two multi-storey car parks each with twelve hundred car spaces; a two level, dual lane axial roadway; and the start of a major upgrade to the aircraft parking aprons.

“In November last year,” said Mr Byron, in the same press release, “we opened the Southern Concourse Terminal and travellers in and out of Canberra have been enjoying the benefits, but that new facility is only the first part of the Canberra Airport AirVolution. Since its opening we have focused on the next stage of the AirVolution – the old Qantas terminal has been removed, services have been relocated, and plans finalised.”

The new Southern Concourse Terminal more than doubled the size of the pre-existing terminal, and greatly improved both its capacity and its quality. Explains Mr Brown, “Obviously with that, a lot of additional passenger amenity was delivered. We’ve got more check-in counters, more aerobridges, more baggage facilities, a greater retail offering and probably most significantly, an expansion of the club lounge facilities, [which are] second only to Sydney in terms of size – it’s a big area where the airlines and others are doing great things, so it does have a lot of wow factor associated with it.”

With the commencement of the second phase of construction on this massive development, Mr Brown says that the Airport is excited to offer even more benefits to its passengers, as well as increasing the capacity for future growth. “We’re going from 26,000 to 55,000 square metres of built terminal area,” he says, “and not too long ago we were at 12,000 square meters, so you can see that this additional infrastructure is going to position us really well going forward.”

Not only is it the largest project in the history of the Canberra Airport, it’s also the largest private infrastructure project in the history of Canberra. Says Mr Brown, “At privatisation, the aviation infrastructure of Canberra Airport was rundown. We built the new main runway, along with the main taxiway network, and we’ve been working since 2003 to deliver a new terminal. What’s incorporated in the AirVolution is the wholesale redevelopment of the 30 hectare terminal site. Every built structure, every car space, every piece of road, every in-ground service, the works, basically is being demolished and built anew.”

“Having not done this before,” remarked Mr Brown, “most of the experiences have been unique, at least to me. But I think the most significant challenge has been to build the facilities in an operating terminal environment. There has been an enormous amount of materials moving in and out of the construction area every day, we have construction activity on any number of fronts, and this is all going on while we have 10,000 plus passengers moving through the terminal each and every day. So there are logistical challenges in building this new terminal on a brownfield site… but this site has some relatively unique locational attributes which we wanted to retain for the new terminal, which drove us to building the new terminal on the old site. And with that obviously comes some staging challenges.”

The project is also significant in other ways, in both its environmental initiatives as well as its local focus on materials and labour. “We’ve got a team of about 450 people working on the project at any point of time, with many thousands more in the supply chain. As the Airport is owned by a local family, we’re conscious that we want to keep the benefits of the project local wherever possible. As a result of that, we have a team comprised of about 80% local companies. The designers are local, the engineers are local, the builders are local and the majority of the subcontractors and suppliers are local as well.”

Environmentally speaking, the project is in line with all initiatives typical of a five star energy rated building, as well as incorporating a number of unique and advanced technologies. The main environmental focus for the project is in water reuse, with recycled water storage tanks holding 1.2 million litres servicing the air conditioning as well as supplying water for toilet flushing and irrigation of the landscaping surrounding the new terminal. Additionally, the Canberra Airport will have two highly efficient tri-generation energy plants associated with the new construction, one for each of the two new terminal buildings.

In the second phase of construction, the Western Concourse Terminal will be, in essence, a mirror image of the Southern Concourse Terminal, with the significant addition of a large central atrium which will link the two discrete elements. “The main challenge for the second stage will continue to be staging and working around the operating terminal environment. I think there are some unique elements coming as part of the Western Concourse Terminal, both in terms of environmental initiatives we’ve adopted as well as in terms of the passenger experience. The large central atrium is a key element in all of that and obviously we look forward to unveiling it in early 2013.”

“Since 1998 when the airport was privatised, we’ve been working on this terminal and, as we stand today, more than a billion dollars has been invested into the development of the airport and there’s a bit more to go, so people that aren’t familiar with Canberra Airport, and who don’t travel here frequently, will see a very different facility in the years to come compared to what they’ve seen in the past.”

“Putting it quite simply, our aim is to deliver the best small airport in the country, if not the world. We are a small airport, we recognise that we’re not going to be able to be the biggest airport, but we can be the best.”

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January 18, 2021, 10:02 PM AEDT