Beijing, the capital city of the Republic of China, is one of the largest cities in the world. It has only one international airport and a military air base, whereas other esteemed cities of the world of the same level have more than two international airports.

The city is served by the Beijing Capital International Airport, which is the world’s second largest in terms of passenger traffic. The airport is currently running at maximum capacity and cannot be expanded further.

In January 2013, the Government of China announced the long-awaited approval for construction of a new international airport. The airport will be built at Daxing, a suburb district south of the city. It will reduce congestion at the existing airport and contribute towards the growth of Beijing.

The new airport is expected to cost around $11.26bn (CNY 70bn). It is expected to handle more than 130 million passengers and 5.5 million tonnes of cargo annually.

Construction was commenced in December 2014 and the steel structure of the terminal was topped out in June 2017. Construction of the airport is scheduled to be completed by June 2019 and the airport will begin operations in September 2019.

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

The need for a new airport in Beijing

The Beijing Capital International Airport has an annual passenger handling capacity of 75 million. In 2012, the airport handled 82 million passengers, a growth 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 the 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.

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.

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

With the 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 be closed after the new airport is inaugurated.

Beijing Daxing International Airport design

The airport will be built on a 2,679.01ha (6,620 acres) site located 46km south of Beijing’s political centre, Tiananmen Square.

“The airport is expected to replace the US’s Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport as the world’s busiest.”

Netherlands Airport Consultants (NACO), a Dutch airport consulting firm, won the bid to design the new airport’s master plan. The airport will have eight runways and one military runway. It will mostly handle domestic traffic.

The project was initially opposed by environmental groups who warned that the airport will contribute to the country’s pollution and greenhouse gas emission problems.

Special care has been taken by NACO to incorporate sustainable elements into the master plan of the airport. The runways and taxiways have been planned and designed to reduce travelling distances between them. This in turn will reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The airport design includes various types of ground transport systems such as high-speed trains, metro and inter-airport trains. All the transport systems will be operated through a ground transportation centre due to be constructed in front of 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.