The T5 completion

Posted: 28 March 2008 | David Bartlett, Head of Design T5, BAA | No comments yet

The start of operations at Terminal 5 on 27 March 2008 marks the beginning of an exciting new chapter for Heathrow Airport. At a cost of £4.3bn, this has been a mammoth undertaking, successfully completed on time and on budget. Terminal 5 will redefine the passenger experience at Heathrow and set new standards both in terminal design and customer satisfaction.

The start of operations at Terminal 5 on 27 March 2008 marks the beginning of an exciting new chapter for Heathrow Airport. At a cost of £4.3bn, this has been a mammoth undertaking, successfully completed on time and on budget. Terminal 5 will redefine the passenger experience at Heathrow and set new standards both in terminal design and customer satisfaction.

Terminal 5 includes far more than a single building, the development includes: Terminal 5A, the main terminal building; Terminal 5B a satellite which provides additional capacity and pier-served aircraft stands, and Terminal 5C is a second satellite building which will open in 2010. All three buildings are linked underground by a Tracked Transit System (TTS), where driverless trains will shuttle passengers to their gates. The development provides Heathrow with the capacity to handle an additional 30 – 35 million passengers per annum.

In addition to the buildings the Terminal 5 development includes:

  • A six platform rail station, located underneath the main terminal building
  • Extensions to the London Underground Piccadilly Line and Heathrow Express
  • A spur road linking Terminal 5 to the M25
  • A new 87-metre tall air traffic control tower
  • 13.5km of bored tunnel
  • 60 aircraft stands


Designed by Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners (formerly known as the Richard Rogers Partnership), Terminal 5 is a stunning collection of steel and glass structures that will meet the needs of 21st century air travel. Passenger comfort, and the creation of a superb experience is at the heart of every element of the building’s design. Intricate attention has been paid to everything from the ergonomic design of the check-in desks, through to the choice of sinks in the washroom facilities. Over 30,000sq metres of glazing means that natural light floods the buildings, bringing a tremendous feeling of space, and enhancing everything from way-finding and energy efficiency through to overall experience. Departing passengers move intuitively, west to east across the building.


British Airways is the sole airline occupant of Terminal 5, and its move to the new facility means that around 40 per cent of the airport’s passengers will travel from Terminal 5. This has presented BAA with a key opportunity to undertake a major programme of redevelopment which will see £6.2bn invested in refurbishing or redeveloping existing terminals. Central to these plans are Heathrow East, a completely new facility that will replace Terminals 1 and 2.

Terminal 5 will enable BAA provide a step change in the quality of service at the airport. It will also enable Heathrow to make best use of the existing two runways.

Key Features of Terminal 5’s Design

Every element of Terminal 5, from the floors and ceilings through to the 9,140 seats has been considered with the passenger experience in mind. It is a collection of stunning buildings that have been designed to meet the current demands of aviation, and are flexible enough to be readily adapted to meet any future changes in aviation policy.

Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners, along with structural engineers Arup have created a dramatic statement with the terminal’s single-span roof. There are no supporting internal columns, instead 22 pairs of 914mm-diameter steel leg supports which run the length of the building, bear its 30,000 tonne weight. This design means that passengers enjoy a light and spacious environment, with superb airfield views.

Interchange Plaza

In front of Terminal 5A, running along its length, is a unique design feature – the Interchange Plaza. This 30-metre wide space, landscaped with 40 London Plane trees, fountains and artwork, separates the building’s western façade from the short-stay car park. Designers created this space by incorporating the departures forecourt and drop off lanes onto the top level of the car park. This creates a park style space in front of the terminal, as opposed to a more traditional road system.

All forms of surface access transport meet at the Interchange Plaza; a bus and coach station is located on the ground floor of the car park, while rail passengers access the station at the northern end.

The plaza is also home to specially commission artwork by Turner Prize nominated artists Ben Langlands and Nikki Bell. Called ‘Moving World (Night & Day)’, the artwork consists of two neon and glass walls positioned at either end of the Interchange Plaza. On each wall a luminous arc of blue neon spells out airport codes from around the world. The neon is programmed to give a constantly changing pattern of moving blue light that reflects in the terminal’s glass facades. At the foot of each wall is a granite plinth seat.

Rail station

Terminal 5’s six-platform rail station, designed by architects HOK, runs underneath the main terminal building and the Interchange Plaza. A translucent plastic, Ethylene TetrafluoroEthylene (ETFE) roof allows natural light to flood down into the rail box. Ten, 50-person express lifts convey passengers to Departures. Arriving passengers will take escalators from the ground floor down to the rail station.


Terminal 5’s facades are made up of over 30,000 square metres of glass, equating to 5,500 glass panels. To help manage the temperature, the glass is coated with a film which controls the amount of sunlight entering the buildings, while ‘brise soleil’ panels have been fitted to the exterior. These are fixed aluminium louvres that act like sun shades, deflecting glare.

Glass wall linings

All the internal walls are also lined with glass. 24,000 sq metres of glazed wall linings reflect light, and are straightforward to clean and maintain. The glazing is installed over white walls, however the iron content in the glass gives a turquoise hue. The wall linings also conceal a multitude of services from, fire equipment to communication points.


Designers have paid careful attention to the ceilings in Terminal 5. A loose-fit ceiling largely made up of discs was chosen as an alternative to traditional ceiling tiles. While the discs don’t completely hide the services behind, a tilt hinge on each allows effective maintenance access to the services above. There are 4,678 steel ceiling discs.


Terminal 5’s flooring needed to be very hard-wearing and able to accommodate access points for services. An Italian natural stone conglomerate is used throughout. Dark tiles are used at areas where passengers need to undertake an aviation-related activity, such as in security or ticket presentation. Light tiles provide floor covering everywhere else.


Architects from Priestman Goode and Pascall + Watson have paid careful attention to integrating services in order to minimise ‘clutter’ in the passenger areas, and to create uniformity amongst the fixtures and fittings inside the terminal. On the departures concourse, 10-metre high zonal beacons serve a number of functions; as well as helping to orientate passengers they consolidate systems including: speakers, cameras and flight information display screens. The beacons have been created from a kit of modular parts, so that future alterations can readily be made. They have been positioned to be clearly seen along the length of the building.


Providing comfortable seating has been an integral element in Terminal 5’s design. There are 9,140 seats in the new terminal and products from 50 potential suppliers were reviewed before Vitra was chosen to deliver the seating. The seats underwent numerous tests including a trial in Terminal 2, before being installed.


Terminal 5’s lighting system was designed by Spiers and Major. Their brief was to balance the need for functional lighting, with the need to highlight and give expression to the architectural features such as the exposed knuckle joints of the roof supports. In areas of the terminal where natural light is limited, such as the Immigration Hall, blue lighting has been used to provide an accent.

Low energy lights are used throughout the terminal, and the amount of artificial lighting used can be altered in relation to available daylight. Light sensors, movement detectors and timers automatically dim or switch off lighting where not required.

Travelling with Children

There are baby changing facilities in all of the toilet blocks, which include a changing bench with soft mat and a paper roll dispenser, a wash basin, handryer and mirror. Some of the larger baby change facilities have an area designated for feeding, this incorporates a Classic Vitra chair designed by Alberto Meda, and small Elephant stools by Sori Tanagi for little people to sit on. The lighting is intentionally ambient.

There are three children’s play areas aimed at toddlers through to seven-year-olds; two are in Terminal 5A, the other is located in the satellite building. The play areas feature bespoke pieces designed by the Italian company Play+ Soft.

Retail at Terminal 5

Research has consistently shown that passengers enjoy the airport shopping experience. BAA has worked closely with our designers, including architects Chapman Taylor, to create a retail environment that is not intrusive, but which is carefully integrated into the fabric of the building.
Income generated by retail at BAA’s airports is directly used to reduce landing charges. Our regulator the CAA and BAA have to agree forecasts for the income BAA will make from retail activities as part of a five yearly review, all of this income is used to offset the level of charges that passengers and airlines pay.

Income generated by retail at BAA’s airports is directly used to reduce landing charges. Our regulator, the CAA forecasts the income BAA will make frm retail activities as part of a five yearly review. All of this income is used to offset the level of charges that passengers and airlines pay.

Terminal 5 will set new standards in airport retail and dining experiences. BAA set out to engage with a range of local and globally strong brands to create a new and exciting airport shopping environment, with each store concept fulfilling the key criteria of being surprising and experience-enhancing.

Carefully designed to ensure it is proportionate to the scale of the building, Terminal 5’s 112 retail outlets equates to only 5 per cent of the terminal’s total floor space. And there is more than just shops and restaurants; working with museums and other cultural institutions, Terminal 5 will feature exposition spaces with regularly changing exhibitions.

For the first time at an airport

There are a number of airport ‘firsts’ in Terminal 5; Michelin starred chef Gordon Ramsay has his first airport-based restaurant with magnificent views over the airfield. While Tiffany & Co. is opening its first European airport boutique at Terminal 5, and only the second (after New York) where customers can view a selection of pieces from the Tiffany & Co. archives.

Something a bit different

Paul Smith’s Globe is a completely unique store for Terminal 5, both in terms of product offering and the shop environment. It features antique doors from a French chateau, and a terrace looking out onto seasonally-adjusted images screened on a back wall. The store will house one-off pieces and rare books, as well as women’s and menswear collections.

Choice for all budgets

There will of course be a variety of choices to suit all budgets, with all retailers maintaining a twist on their high street offering. Wagamama is opening its first airport restaurant, offering an exclusive breakfast menu. And WHSmith has made a significant investment in technology, people and store design, to provide a new focus on customer service.

Retail in the landside environment

Although the majority of retail is in the airside environment, there is a good selection of outlets landside; on Departures level juicebar ‘Lovejuice’ will offer a range of freshly made juices and smoothies, The 5 Tuns is a London-themed pub where customers will be served their beer directly from the keg at the front of the bar. And at Arrivals there is an M&S Simply Food, and Krispy Kreme will be selling a customised Terminal 5 donut.

British Airways’ Lounges

British Airways has invested in the creation of a complex of six lounges, covering 15,000 square feet and based on the look and feel of a modern boutique hotel. Premium and top tier members of the oneworld alliance’s frequent flyer scheme will be able to enjoy the ‘galleries’, which feature Swarovski chandeliers and furnishings by designers Osborne & Little.

About the author

Since August 2004, David has been contracted to BAA (British Airports Authority) as the ‘Head of Design’ for the new £4.3 billion Terminal 5 project at London’s Heathrow airport. In January 2007 David joined BAA and took on additional accountabilities as ‘Design Director’ for the new £1.29 billion Heathrow East terminal which will replace T2 and the Queen’s building in time for the London Olympics in 2012.

He has a Diploma in Architecture with Distinction, Thames Polytechnic, 1979 and a Post-Graduate Diploma in Building Conservation, The Architectural Association, 1981. David is also a member of the Royal Institute of British Architects.

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