With this increase in demand there is a growing need for current airports to adapt and improve; and for future airports to embrace new digital design technologies and systems in order to keep pace with the passengers need for safety, convenience, amenities and non- stop services.

Parametric design and Building Information Modelling (BIM) are at the forefront of this new way of engineering. Last month Taco Spoor, Team Leader Baggage Handling at NACO, delivered a talk on the future of airport design in Amsterdam – which centred on our design for a major new airport in Mexico City. In spite of a limited time frame to complete the design, the largest infrastructure project in the country’s history was made possible thanks to BIM and parametric design.

Making the complex simple

NACO’s engineers are based in the Netherlands and work with numerous parties based throughout the world on multiple projects at the same time. The Mexico City airport design was no different. Throughout the project there have been hundreds of engineers working simultaneously across more than a dozen countries. By using BIM and parametric design, the team did not need to be at the same location to work together and changes made by one engineer would be made instantaneously within the model for all the team.

Working in this ‘live’ environment was particularly crucial when taking into account that this was such a significant, large-scale project – the airport would cover over 600,000m². There were multiple different disciplines to factor into the design including, among others, security, baggage handling, architecture, structures, ICT and Mechanical, electrical and plumbing (MEP) systems.

To put this into perspective, one small change to one of these disciplines could have had an impact on 40,000 items on the parts list.

However, being able to update these elements in BIM and see the results reflected throughout the design prevents possible clashes – both in terms of time and cost. Using parametric design means that if an existing pier needs to change in size and shape we can easily update the baggage handling system accordingly, without the need to re-engineer the whole design.

Where design changes like these once took weeks or even months to be updated within all disciplines, working with BIM has reduced the time to a matter of days.

The new standard of engineering

It is expected that air traffic will continue to change, as it has done for many years. Security measures will certainly continue to develop and the passenger experience will have to adapt at the same time.

As digitalisation continues to grow, BIM and parametric design provide a glimpse into the benefits that digital solutions could provide not just for engineers, but also for clients looking to develop projects that once would have taken much longer to undertake and as a result would have been more costly. Ultimately, these new tools allow us to create beautiful airports that make the ever increasing number of passengers passing through our airports feel at ease throughout their journey.

About BIM

BIM creates a 3D model of an airport – this takes what might have been a simple or mundane spreadsheet or blue-print and brings it to life. It allows clients, engineers and designers alike to better visualise a project. Parametric design allows the vast amount of data from the design process to be input into the model, which can then be tweaked in real time with changes reflected instantaneously.