T2 – Transforming Dublin Airport

Posted: 4 February 2008 | Mark Foley, Director of Capital Programmes, Dublin Airport Authority | No comments yet

The €2 billion ‘Transforming Dublin Airport’ programme, which is now in its third year, is one of the largest construction projects in Ireland.

The €2 billion ‘Transforming Dublin Airport’ programme, which is now in its third year, is one of the largest construction projects in Ireland.

At the heart of that programme is a 75,000 sq metre new passenger terminal (T2) and a linked 24,000 sq metre new boarding gate facility, that will be known as Pier E. T2 is the biggest single project within ‘Transforming Dublin Airport’ and is also the highest profile element of the construction programme.

The core aim of Dublin Airport’s capital investment programme, which involves 120 separate construction projects, is to radically improve the passenger experience at the airport and address its current infrastructural problems.

Dublin Airport has been one of the fastest growing major airports in Europe in recent years. Passenger numbers have more than doubled over the past 10 years and last year more than 23 million people passed through Dublin Airport.

Investment in terminal facilities at Dublin has lagged the growth in passenger numbers in recent years. This is due, in part, to a major review of aviation policy by the Irish Government, during which major investment was effectively stalled. In May 2005, after that review was completed, the Government asked the Dublin Airport Authority (DAA) to build T2.

A consortium comprising Arup/ Pascall+Watson/Mace and Davis Langdon PKS was appointed to the T2 project in January 2006 and in tandem with the DAAs own internal team, they worked tirelessly during the first half of that year to prepare a design for the new terminal.

A core principal that was followed throughout the design process was to create a cost efficient and yet stylish terminal that would be easy to navigate for passengers. Minimal level changes and comfortable waiting areas were also key requirements.

These goals have been more than achieved with the final blueprints for the new terminal. T2 is an unashamedly modern curvilinear building, designed around customers’ needs and unlike a lot of terminals, it has been designed so that both departing and arriving passengers will experience the best of the new building.

T2 elegantly straddles the main approach road to the existing terminal, with check-in located on one side of the road and the mail passenger processing area on the other side. The two elements of the building are connected by a bridge, that is part of the central spine of the new terminal.

T2 provides spacious volumes in all those areas where passengers dwell – check-in, security search, departures lounge, gate rooms, immigration hall, baggage hall and arrivals hall. We have the right spaces in all the right places, as the public areas within T2 are large, bright and airy.

The internal architecture of T2 is composed of a series of simple, elegant, well-lit spaces connected by clear passenger routes. There will be a generous use of daylight throughout T2 and the ease with which passengers will be able to move through the building was one of the key design drivers for the project team.

The simplicity of use has been achieved by providing a series of visual clues to draw passengers through the new building. The departures route flows along the central spine of the building, with passengers offered a graceful flow upwards towards greater, light-filled spaces en route from check-in to the gate.

Natural light will be a key feature within T2 and the colour palette that we are using within the terminal will also reflect natural shades, that have been inspired by colours within the Irish landscape.

There will be a wow factor with T2. The travel experience that passengers are going to get from it will be quite exciting as they’ll be moving through dynamic spaces. The shape of the building itself will also be conducive to moving passengers forward towards their destination.

Arriving passengers will be offered a straightforward route from gate to landside that also passes through the core of the building. As a result of this innovative combination, all passengers will experience the heart of T2 and appreciate the generous new public spaces, whether they are arriving at Dublin Airport or leaving it.

Passenger routes through T2 are simple and straightforward and coupled with the airy new spaces, this should help create a calm atmosphere throughout the new terminal. It is often uncertainty that causes stress in travellers, as angst is generated by not knowing where to go. However the actual design of T2 will act as a subconscious signpost, making each step on the journey obvious.

T2 will sit astride the existing access road for T1, which will eventually pass through the middle of the new building. Vehicular traffic for T2 will curve off towards a new set down and pick up area specifically created for Terminal 2.

The new road for T2 will eventually split into separate departures, set down and arrivals pick up areas, both of which will be at ground level. The T2 set down and pick up areas will be located between the terminal and a new multi-storey car park and hotel development.

Departing passengers will come in on the new road and walk straight into the check-in hall at ground level and enter a bright welcoming space with shoreline check-in desks, self service kiosks and bag tag and drop positions.

Having checked in, passengers will go up one level via escalators or lifts to a landside area with retail and cafes where they can linger if they wish. The first floor landside area is also where the meeters and greeters for arriving passengers will wait.

If they prefer to eat and shop airside, passengers will rise another level to the second floor where there will be a central security point. This security area is being designed with a huge degree of flexibility so that it can be expanded and upgraded to allow for any future changes in security screening procedures.

Once through security, passengers will enter the departure lounge with seating that will be surrounded by retail and catering outlets. Departing passengers then go down one level onto the new Pier E, which will have 19 gates.

Glass will feature heavily in the pier design giving sweeping views out onto the apron and beyond. Pier E will be a two and a half storey building in that arriving passengers will walk along a glass mezzanine level that will be in the centre of the pier. This mezzanine connects with the first floor of the new T2 building and arriving passengers will remain on a single level throughout their journey through the new terminal, passing through immigration, the baggage hall and then into a meet and greet area, where the airside retail is located.

Passengers can then continue on the same level across into the new multi-storey car park or drop one level to the arrivals kerb, which is at ground level.

Keeping the roads at grade will mean a far more pleasant experience for arriving passengers. Instead of standing under a slab of concrete as is the case in most airports; passengers will be in a pleasant open space with views of the rest of the airport campus.

While T2’s external form is curved, it has been designed from the outset to be built formed from a series of flat, modularised panels, which will make construction simpler and more cost effective.

Our original plan was to open the new terminal by the final quarter of 2009, in line with the delivery date sought by the Irish Government, but due to delays in the statutory planning process that were beyond the DAA’s control, it is now planned that the construction of the terminal will be finished in late 2009 and T2 will open to the public in April 2010.

Construction work for T2 started on 1 October, which was the earliest date possible based on the planning permission that was granted by An Bord Pleanála (the Irish Planning Appeals Board).

The timeframe for the completion of T2 is tight. But we are confident of delivering the project on time and on budget. The new passenger terminal will cost €395 million, while the overall cost of the T2 scheme, which includes the new pier E building, a new energy centre and a campus road upgrade, is €609 million.

The construction site for T2 is in the middle of a live airport environment and this brings additional challenges. It is very different from Heathrow’s T5, where the work is happening far away from the general public. We are building right beside the existing terminal and the main approach road to the existing terminal runs right through the T2 site. This makes our task the construction version of open-heart surgery and like any good surgeon we are taking every necessary precaution, preparing meticulously and planning for every eventuality.

We have to ensure that the work intrudes as little as possible on the 60,000 passengers who come through the airport on an average day and where such intrusion is unavoidable, we must ensure that it is kept to the barest minimum. We must be especially mindful of this during Dublin’s peak summer season when, on a busy day, as many as 100,000 customers use the airport.

The advent of T2 will give us badly needed additional passenger processing space and will also allow us to unlock the potential of terminal one at Dublin Airport. Once T2 is in place, we can upgrade and improve the existing terminal.

This is not to say that we are neglecting T1 in the meantime. We have already been working hard to improve it through a wide range of initiatives. The bulk of our landside catering outlets have been revamped and we have also created additional space on the departures floor by moving some retail and back office operations elsewhere. A new €15 million lower ground floor check-in area opened last spring, giving 25 additional desks. The main entrances on the arrivals level have also been modernised and we are improving the ceiling tiles in the baggage reclaim area and in the arrivals hall.

Work starts in February on a €55 million extension to the existing terminal, that will open on a phased basis during 2009. The 7,500 square metre extension, which will be built at the north-western corner of the terminal, will provide more circulation space for passengers, an enlarged and reconfigured check-in area at the northern end of the terminal and additional retail and catering space.

The T1 extension will provide an enhanced and expanded airside retail and food and beverage offering. It will also deliver an enlarged security screening area and a much larger circulation area for passengers en route to Pier A and the recently opened Pier D, which together handle the bulk of Dublin’s short-haul traffic. Pier D, which opened on time and on budget last October, has 12 gates serving 14 stands and can handle up to 10 million passengers per year.

Each of these projects, whether large or small, is part of the overall €2 billion programme to improve, expand and modernise Dublin Airport. This year will be a busy one as we invest more than €1 million per day to build a better airport for all our customers.

Further information on the €2 billion ‘Transforming Dublin Airport’ investment programme is available at

About the author

Mark Foley joined the Dublin Airport Authority as Director of Capital Programmes in late 2000.
Foley is responsible for delivering Dublin Airport’s €2 billion capital development plan over the next 10 years and also has responsibility for airport planning at Shannon and Cork airports.
Before joining the DAA, Foley was Managing Director of Industrial Print Group and previously spent 14 years with Loctite Ireland in a range of management roles.
He holds a Degree in Engineering and a Masters Degree in Industrial Engineering from University College Dublin.

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