When Mexico City’s new international airport is finished in four years, it will be one of the largest in the world, spanning over half a million square meters. It will also be the most sustainable airport ever built.
Instead of a group of average warehouse-like terminals, the airport will use a single giant structure wrapped in a unique skin that lets in natural light and air, collects rainwater, and provides incredible views of planes circling the sky.
“The vast roof enclosure will be bright and airy, incorporating large areas of translucent and opaque panels, daylight reflectors and building-integrated photovoltaic panels,” explains architect Piers Heath from Foster and Partners, which teamed with FR-EE’s Fernando Romero on the design.
“These are all aimed at providing shade and thermal insulation, while also allowing views out and diffusing natural daylight throughout the terminal, thus reducing the need for supplementary lighting.”
Support buildings and fields on the site will hold even more solar panels, ultimately providing 50 megawatts of peak power, enough to supply a large portion of the airport’s energy. The airport will also have its own efficient on-site central energy plant.
In the original brief, the Mexican government wanted two separate terminals, but the designers were able to condense everything into one large space. In part, their goal was to avoid the usual airport train between terminals, which would have been difficult to build on the site. Travelers will be able to easily walk between gates, making connections less annoying and saving energy.
The airport has a laundry list of other sustainable features, many of them new to airport design. Most of the time, the airport won’t use air conditioning, taking advantage of Mexico City’s high elevation and drawing in fresh air from outside. The airport will also treat and recycle its own water. The lightweight building will be designed with low-energy, locally-sourced prefab materials that can be quickly constructed.
“The legacy of the airport is an important consideration–it will act as a testbed for innovations and will be able to adapt to how the city, aviation and technologies might change in the future,” Heath says.
The design team hopes to inspire other cities as they overhaul old airports. “Whilst we are clearly taking advantage of Mexico City’s unique climate, there are numerous techniques and technologies that we hope will influence and inspire future airport designs,” says Heath.
Construction will begin on the airport next year.