With its new passenger terminal 5, Londonâ€™s Heathrow Airport, a hub of international air transport, has gained a new landmark made of glass and steel. At the opening of the new, futuristic building designed by Richard Rogers Partnership, the Queen spoke of a "bright, airy space and clean, efficient layout". The five-storey, 369-m-long, 176-m-wide and 40-m-high terminal building, covering the area of 50 football pitches, is certainly impressive: passengers have an excellent view of the runways from the building, which is glazed from floor to ceiling, and on a clear day, they can even see as far as Windsor Castle and the new Wembley Stadium.
With 40,000 aluminium profiles and 24,000 square metres of glass, the scale of this project does not represent just-in-time mass production; on the contrary, it points to extensive planning and logistical efforts, requiring high-tech solutions to be developed and implemented within the agreed times. The T5 project offers unequalled opportunities regarding the size of the development and the diversity in detail of the various components. 60,000 drawings and 200,000 man-hours document the numerous special requirements catered for seeleâ€™s works. These include glazing of balustrades, escalators, lift shafts, etc. as well as planning and executing the glass boxes connected to the gangways.
All glazing work was performed using laminated-glass panels and met a wide range of special requirements for airports. Passive security against bomb attacks was given high priority. To protect people from explosions, a break release force was determined for the glazing, guaranteeing that, depending on the strength of the blast wave, the panels break into small fragments without becoming detached from the safety film. The construction absorbs the energy of blast waves to a high degree and ensures that no one gets hurt. A further requirement for airports is heightened impact protection for the electro vehicles used on-site. Although they may appear fairly inconspicuous, these vehicles weigh almost one ton and can therefore exert an enormous impact load, even when travelling at low speeds.
The high demand placed on implementing impact and explosion protection aesthetically using glass was one of the biggest constructional challenges of the project.