Beijing Daxing International Airport, which is expected to be north China’s commercial aviation hub, was opened for operations in September 2019, following more than four years of construction.

The Government of China announced the long-awaited approval for the construction of a new international airport in January 2013. The new airport is located in Daxing, a suburb district south of the city. It will reduce congestion at the existing airport and cater to the needs of Beijing passengers.

The new airport was developed at a cost of CNY120bn ($17bn approximately), while the projects in its periphery attracted investments of CNY330bn ($46.2bn approximately). It is expected to handle 72 million passengers and two million tonnes of cargo a year by 2025.

Construction work on the airport commenced in December 2014 and the steel structure of the terminal was formed in June 2017. The construction was completed in June 2019.

The new airport places Beijing alongside some of the most prominent cities in the world. The airport is expected to replace the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport as the world’s busiest.

Beijing Daxing International Airport design and features

The Beijing Daxing International Airport is built on a 2,679.01ha (6,620 acres) site located 46km south of Beijing’s political centre, Tiananmen Square.

The project included the construction of airline bases, an intercity railway, high-speed subway, highway and air traffic control tower.

Netherlands Airport Consultants (NACO), a Dutch airport consulting firm, won the bid to design the new airport’s master plan. The airport has four civilian runways and one military runway. Beijing Daxing is the first airport in the world with double-deck departure and arrival platforms.

Special care has been taken by NACO to incorporate sustainable elements into the master plan of the airport. The terminal building covers 313,000m² and features a central building with six arms, resembling a phoenix spreading its wings from the aerial view. The distance between the far-end of the terminal to the centre is 600m.

The Beijing Daxing International Airport will use facial recognition for secure access to the airport and radio frequency identification devices for baggage tracking. The terminal also features inquiry robots.

Operated by China Resources Land, the landside terminal of the airport consists of childcare and nursery, interactive pet hotels, hybrid online retail and dining places and showrooms.

China Southern Airlines and China Eastern Airlines will operate from the Daxing Airport along with other SkyTeam Airline Alliance members.

Sustainable features of Beijing Daxing International Airport

The Beijing Daxing International Airport incorporates energy-saving green concepts, allowing natural light into the building. Renewable energy accounts for more than 10% of the energy consumed by the airport. Other traditional sources will also be used to meet the needs of the airport.

The airport features a solar farm with photovoltaic cells mounted on the roof of the car park building, hangars and cargo areas. A 100% rainwater collection facility was installed to cater to its energy and resource needs.

Heating and cooling systems of the airport are powered by geothermal heat pumps located at the Yongding River basin. Energy from the pumps is expected to meet 8% of the energy required by the airport. Filter glasses are used to block 60% of the heat and allow 60% of natural sunlight inside the terminal building.

The departure lounges open to five courtyards designed in ancient Chinese-style, featuring silk, tea, porcelain, courtside and Chinese gardens.

The new airport implements the latest technology such as a passenger self check-in facility, which will be available for 86% of the passengers and self baggage check-in serving 76% of the passengers. Use of clean energy vehicles will also reduce the airport’s carbon footprint.

Associated infrastructure

Beijing Daxing International Airport is integrated to the city through multiple means of transportation facilities. Its design includes various types of ground transport systems such as high-speed trains, metro and inter-airport trains.

All transport systems are operated through a ground transportation centre constructed in front of the terminal building.

A total of three underground railway stations were built beneath the terminal building.

Contractors involved

The Beijing New Airport Headquarters formed a joint design team comprising ADP Ingeniérie (ADPI) and Zaha Hadid Architects (ZHA) to develop a concept design for the Beijing New Airport terminal building in October 2014. The concept design was completed in February 2015.

International design studio Lead 8 was selected as the lead designer for the new commercial terminal in August 2018.

Arup provided fire engineering services for the airport and was later appointed to provide peer review and value engineering for the steel roof.

Burohappold Engineering, an engineering consultancy, was part of the consortium that designed the airport.

OSRAM, a company based in Germany, provided LED lighting for the airport.

The need for a new airport in Beijing

Beijing, the capital city of the Republic of China and one of the largest cities in the world, had just one international airport and a military air base, while cities that are esteemed on par with it had two or more international airports.

The city was being served by the Beijing Capital International Airport, which is the world’s second largest in terms of passenger traffic, but was running at maximum capacity and couldn’t be further expanded..

Beijing Capital International Airport has an annual passenger handling capacity of 75 million. In 2012, the airport handled 82 million passengers, an increase of 4.1% over the previous year. The airport is expected to reach saturation within the next two years. The situation is expected to worsen and make it difficult for passengers to move freely in the terminal.

Approximately 205,000 passengers pass through the airport daily and it is not possible to expand the airport to handle 370,000 passengers.

The airport currently occupies an area of 2,100ha. An expansion will make it difficult to operate such a large airport. The recently constructed terminal three, which is as big as London’s Heathrow Airport, is also running at maximum capacity.

With an increase in economic growth and urbanisation, the city has witnessed massive migration from rural areas. This has placed further stress on the existing transport facilities, including air travel.

In addition, Beijing’s expanding economic growth has attracted an increasing amount of business travellers. Over the next few years, the city is expected to witness a large number of passengers travelling in and out of the country. Many of these passengers are expected to be business travellers.

Proposals for the construction of a second airport for Beijing have been under discussion for more than a decade but were not implemented. The growth of the city has, however, necessitated the construction of a new airport.

Beijing Nanyuan Airport, which is currently serving as the second airport for the city, is expected to close following the new airport’s inauguration.