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The extension of Helsinki Airport is also a major infrastructure site

All in all, the extension of the airport towards Terminal 2 is a huge project not just in terms of its scale but especially because it is being carried out within the existing infrastructure, without disturbing the operation of the airport. For Sito, contributing to the project represents a great opportunity to showcase its expertise.

Works relating to the extension of Terminal 2 are being carried out in the pink area of the aerial photograph. The development program –pekka.timinen@will be complete in 2020. Photo: MML 2014

Finavia’s aim in extending Helsinki Airport is to prepare itself for serving an increasing number of air transport passengers. More and more of these will be transit passengers.

Helsinki Airport is already an important transit hub, and the number of flights to and from Asia in particular is believed to grow considerably in the future. Increasing capacity for transit operations and extending the terminal are part of Finavia’s development program for the years 2014–2020. By 2020, the airport will have enough capacity for serving as many as 20 million passengers. In 2015, the number of passengers at Helsinki Airport was 16.4 million.

The extension project will add 75,000 square meters to the area of the terminal and increase its length by a total of approximately 500 meters, thanks to two new wings. In total, the extension project will cost hundreds of millions of euros. Finavia has calculated that its development program will create 5,000 new and permanent jobs in various businesses at Helsinki Airport. The construction phase of the project will provide 14,000 person-years of work.

The first preparatory construction works relating to the extension began after the summer break last year.

Infrastructure construction underway

Extending the terminal will increase the number of departure and arrival gates for aircraft. Improvements in the airport apron form a separate project. The project involves designing and building 19 new parking spaces for wide-body airliners, 17 of which will be connected to the terminal by jetways.

In the apron area, which is used for aircraft taxiing and parking, works are being carried out across a massive area of almost 48 hectares.

Esa-Pekka_ja_Pasi_600x337The project partners – Finavia, Destia and Sito – share an office named the Big Room in Finavia’s premises at Helsinki Airport. Project Manager Esa-Pekka Timonen is coordinating the operations in his typical calm manner.

Sito’s Chief Planner Pasi Pekkala also works in the Big Room on most days of the week.
Works in the airport apron began in January, but Sito has actually been involved in planning the development program for Helsinki Airport since 2014.

According to Pasi Pekkala, the engineering team includes around 30 Sito experts in land use planning, rock and geotechnical engineering, structural engineering, transport and electrical engineering, and soil contamination studies. All aspects of engineering are based on data modeling.

The project offers a new kind of challenge for all the Sito employees involved. “It is not often that we get to be involved in such a fantastic project,” Pasi Pekkala says.

An array of challenges

Helsinki Airport is a unique operating environment in many ways.

All the extension works will take place within the existing infrastructure. This was naturally a sensible solution in terms of the functionality of the airport. The airport will still be compact after the extension, but all its functions will be under one roof.

Running a building site in the middle of an operational airport is no simple task. Planning the project so that all elements work together, without unreasonable delays, safely and without disturbing the operation of the airport sounds like a Herculean feat.

The first priority is to ensure the safety of not only the builders but especially the airport’s staff and passengers.

“The airport is open 24/7. We need to take this into account at all times, as the operations of the airport must not be disturbed,” Pasi Pekkala explains.

“If we need to decommission a gate, we need to have an alternative ready,” Esa-Pekka Timonen says.

“There are no virginal spaces here where we could work uninterrupted. We cannot do anything from start to finish in one go. If we could, the project would be completed much faster,” he adds.

With a project made up of elements, everything needs to be planned in detail and far ahead. It is also vital to provide detailed information to the right people and at the right time.

“In this respect, too, a large, international airport is a unique operating environment. The number of people we need to keep informed is huge, as the range of stakeholders is extremely wide. All airport staff and suppliers also need to know well in advance about any changes that will affect their access routes, for example,” Esa-Pekka Timonen explains.

Not your regular building site

All is calm in the Big Room, but around it there are aircraft taking off and landing all the time. Passengers are hurrying along. Construction machinery is hard at work.

After this, many infrastructure projects will seem like child’s play.

Text: Dakota Levanto