What can the construction industry learn from Kansai Airport, Osaka, Japan
Kansai International Airport is a unique piece of construction that demonstrates perfectly the way in which smart building can solve serious infrastructure issues. It is an island airport and recent figures indicate that it is the 30th busiest airport in Asia and 3rd busiest in Japan. Its history stretches back only as far as 1994 when this innovative airport was constructed to help reduce overcrowding at nearby Osaka International Airport. These are some of the ways in which Kansai Airport provides some valuable lessons for the rest of the construction industry.
Water is no obstacle to construction
Kansai International is built on an artificial island, which is clearly a huge challenge for an airport designed to be 2.5 miles long and 4000 feet wide. Construction experts achieved a sound build that accounted for potential sinking with a number of different techniques, including alluvial clay stabilised with sand columns and steel chambers sunk to the bay floor to define the island. Each of these chambers was 75 feet in height and 75 feet in diameter and weighed 200 tonnes. 48,000 specially shaped concrete blocks were used to fill the spaces in between the chambers.
Expansion is often economically necessary
Kansai is a prime example of the difference that new construction can make to a local economy. In the 1980s, Itami Airport was the only option in Osaka and it was severely inadequate for the needs of the region. Urban development around Itami airport meant that it could not expand, either in terms of physical facilities or number of flights. The old airport had severe cargo shipping restrictions, which often meant that cargo had to be moved to Tokyo to be exported. The local authorities desperately needed to find a new site for the airport but there was nothing land-based available. And so the artificial island was constructed. As a result, today the airport serves as a hub for All Nippon Airways, Japan Airlines, and Nippon Cargo Airlines, as well as for Peach, the first international low-cost carrier in Japan. The airport is viewed as an alternative to Narita Airport for international travelers from the Greater Tokyo Area and hosts multiple international carriers, from Air Canada to Air France.
Innovative thinking makes expansion possible
In the years after Kansai airport opened in 1994 it became apparent that expansion was going to be necessary. And so, in 2003, construction began on a second runway, which opened in 2007. As the designers of the airport had chosen the island location, expansion was far simpler than it would have been for a land-based airport. In 2008, the total cost of the airport, including this expansion, was estimated at $20 billion including land reclamation, two runways, terminals and facilities.
Construction tailored to need
From its inception, Kansai Airport has been specifically designed to cater to certain needs and, as it has expanded, this has continued to influence the construction philosophy. Terminal 2 of the airport, for example, has been designed to host low cost carriers. The construction is specifically tailored to this need – simplified in order to reduce operating costs. So, the terminal is single storey, avoiding the need for expensive escalators, and also has no jet bridges or air conditioning to keep costs down.
There is a lot that the construction industry can learn from Kansai airport. Its innovation, location and design provides a wealth of inspiration. Get in touch with The RG Group today to find out about our latest projects and focus on innovation.