Blog: Rob Stewart, MANTP Programme Delivery Director, on the Evolution of MAN

As work continues on our Transformation Programme we wanted to lift the lid on what it takes to create a fully working terminal from concept designs.  

In June 2015 we announced a 10-year investment in our infrastructure, delivering ‘a better, faster and more modern’ airport experience.

Since then, a team of capacity planners, customer experience experts, architects and engineers have been working on the design of the new terminal and airfield and as you can see from the drone footage, work is continuing at pace to ensure the first sections are open for Spring next year.  

Here we explore how some of those ideas have developed and continue to evolve:

The process

The MAN-TP team is following the RIBA Plan of Works process. Developed by the Royal Institute of British Architects this method begins with the setting of the programme requirements. For the airport this meant understanding the number of aircraft and customers expected at various points in the future, exploring how the airport would operate and what experience customers would want. For example, how many passengers will there be in a particular year and what time of day are most people likely to travel?

These needs are then used to develop a concept design which gets refined as a result of engagement with a wide range of interested parties – from airlines and retailers to passenger groups - and further investigation into how the spaces will work. As time progresses, improvements are made wherever possible and designs are finalised.

As the transformation is so significant it has been broken up into more than 30 projects which are at different stages in the RIBA process.

There are a number of complexities that make the transformation programme unique. For example, the evolution of the project needs to take into account the needs/requests of more than 50 different airlines – this includes their office space, aircraft types and growth projections. It also needs to take into account security regulations around the use of space and how the building will work with the existing Terminal 2 operation. Wherever possible, the team gathers insight into anticipated changes in customer behaviour and technology, so that the end design reflects the very latest thinking.

The terminal

The original concept design had Terminal 2 increasing by 140% but, we are keen to significantly enhance the availability of seating in the new space and with increasing requests from airlines for premium lounges, a mezzanine floor was introduced to the design. This now means there will be 50% more seats available than are currently in Terminals 1 and 2 combined.

Further changes were made to the main terminal size when Laing O’Rourke was awarded the main contract for the scheme. They proposed that the west pier be demolished and rebuilt rather than retained and refurbished. It was not only safer to deliver this solution, but also meant that the main extension did not need to follow the existing gridlines. This meant fewer columns in the new design and more usable space internally and the end result is a terminal building that will be 150% bigger than the existing – this is an increase on what was originally envisaged and means the design is perfectly sized to accommodate all the features we want it to.

The airfield and piers

At the concept stage the airfield design included three piers and what’s called a ‘Dual C’ taxiway for the aircraft to access them. This meant that two narrow-bodied aircraft (e.g. Airbus A320, Boeing 737) could pass one another, but wide-bodied aircraft (e.g. Boeing 777, Airbus 330) would need to take a route down the centre whilst other aircraft were held back.

As the team modelled the airfield traffic for a busy day in 2024, they realised that introducing a larger ‘Dual E’ taxiway would significantly enhance the efficiency of the airfield, allowing most aircraft to manoeuvre to and from the runway without stopping.

The design team has also safeguarded the opportunity for an additional pier, taking the count from three to four. While no date has been set yet for building this fourth pier, an area remains protected to the east of the airfield, meaning it can easily be delivered in the future if the need arises. This means the airport can maximise the use of the airfield, in terms of the number of aircraft we can park on it, while paving the way for an extra pier if it is needed in the future.

The pier design has also changed because of consultation with customers. The initial concept design had the piers at two levels but they are now raised up “on stilts” to match the terminal’s arrival and departure levels. This improvement minimises the number of times customers need to use stairs or lifts, which was important to those who have been consulted with.

As part of the same design process, a new bussing gate lounge has been created at one of the piers closest to the main terminal building, shortening walking distances for those customers whose airlines are using remote stands. This building has not featured on any of the previous images that have been published and is a perfect example of how the project’s scope has increased during the design process.

The pier itself is also slightly shorter than the first to open (April 2019) whilst the second pier to be built will be longest, with an extra floor to accommodate business lounges. These changes were a direct result of the ongoing consultation process with airlines and passenger user groups and is an example of how the scheme can be flexed, based on what our different users want.

The airfield reconfiguration is probably the most complex piece of design work. The introduction of finger piers means turning the stands through 90 degrees ensuring the power and services are in the right position and the concrete is angled correctly to ensure the safe collection of ‘run-off’ rain water and de-icer for treatment. These are examples of things that don’t typically have to be considered in other, more standard, developments.

We will not only maintain our existing flying programme through the development, it will continue to grow, so there have been several design iterations to work out the best programme for reconfiguring the airfield whilst maintaining safe operations and accommodating more aircraft movements in the process – for example, the pier build order is one of the things which has changed.

Look and feel

Once the major elements of the infrastructure are confirmed, the team will work with stakeholders on the more detailed elements of the design, for example the look and feel of the departure lounge. Artists’ impressions providing a flavour of the look and feel have already been shared but the airport hosts customer and special interest forums where elements such as seating, lighting and colour schemes can be influenced ahead of any orders being placed.

One thing that came back from everyone we spoke to is that they want the gate areas and main terminal building to have stunning panoramic views of the airfield through big glass windows and that will be the case.

For many of the design elements, particularly the interior of the departure lounge, the airport is keen to wait until the last responsible moment before making a final decision and this is an area we will provide updates on in the months ahead. This is to ensure the solution reflects latest consumer behaviour and technological advancements at the time, as opposed to locking us into a design that might be out of date by the time it is delivered.

This is particularly true of technology solutions, where it is hoped the most up-to-date kit can be included in the scheme wherever possible. For example, currently the departure lounge design concept includes a living wall which may still be included, but the airport is also exploring multimedia options for this space, like those people may have seen at airports around the world. Various concepts for within the terminal will be tested with customers to ensure it has the wow factor when it comes to opening the doors.

In the check-in hall through refining design, we’re also going to be including tear drop style check-in desks. Again, these were not present in initial designs but have been added based on feedback from airlines as to how they would like their passengers to check-in.

Continuing to evolve

As we move through the design phases, different things get various levels of focus and decisions are then taken. This is a natural process for a project of this size and scale, being delivered over many years. By following this process Manchester Airport hopes to offer a world class experience which meets the needs of the modern traveller.