On The Same Wavelength

The new MTB will transform Abu Dhabi International airport into a world-class facility that can accommodate the expected growth in passenger numbers – up to 30m per annum – over the next decade...

Project overview

The new MTB will transform Abu Dhabi International airport into a world-class facility that can accommodate the expected growth in passenger numbers – up to 30m per annum – over the next decade. The 310,000m2 terminal building comprises a reinforced concrete podium and multilevel basement with 69ktes of superstructure steelwork forming the vast span roof over the central space and four adjoining piers. The monumental departures hall – a 50m-high space that is virtually column-free due to the use of long span leaning arches – has an open, outdoor feel with the supporting arches visually separated from the roof to enhance a sense of air and lightness. The iconic roof design features soft undulations redolent of both desert and seascapes that are so much a part of the local environment. When complete, the MTB will have 65 gates, 165 check-in counters able to handle 8500 passengers per hour, and 22km of conveyor belt will move 19,000 pieces of luggage per hour through the system.


Occupying such a critical part of the overall scheme, the roof element of the MTB presented the construction team with a significant challenge. Essentially a 3D structure had to be created from sheets of cladding with varying widths along each stretch in order to achieve the complex, multi-dimensional ‘wave’ design envisaged by the architect, KPF. It had to be UV-, abrasion- and corrosion resistant, withstand extreme temperatures, and have a non-stick, waterproof surface to perform in all weathers. Kingspan’s KingZip Linea and KingZip Infiniti were identified as ideal matches for the specification. Both products feature a layered structure comprising structural liner tray, vapour control barrier, mineral fibre insulation and external weather sheet with thermo support halters and galvanized top hat support bars running along each side of the sheet. The fluoropolymer and acrylic resin formlation provides a “Teflon type“ surface which is resistant to dirt and easily washed. MD of Kingspan, Lance Wilson, who had a lead role in the project, explained: “With any major project such as the MTB, we install mobile forming and curving equipment so that the roofing element can be manufactured on site. The ambitious nature of the MTB design – requiring curves, undulations, a bull nose from the head of the roof down on to the vertical cladding, piers joining the central part meant accuracy of shape and size was absolutely paramount. If you can imagine, each of the support halters along the roofing sheet had to engage exactly with steel structure below. Roll-forming on site was essential to get the exact shape and dimension to match the specification.”

Seamless relationships

With such a major and complex project, there are many partners involved in the MTB and the Kingspan team has worked flexibly alongside the different parties at all stages. Above all, Kingspan formed the closest working relationship with the building envelope subcontractor, Chadwick Technology, and together they helped turn the complex design vision into the landmark piece of civic architecture fitting its international status. Lance continued: “Chadwick is one of the world’s top roofing contractors and has extensive experience of working on large-scale airport projects. We’ve worked together many times in the past and have a very sound understanding of one another’s approach. Having such synergies was a major contributing factor to the combined team’s ability to work seamlessly and progress at speed to ultimately deliver one of the most aesthetically-pleasing projects in the world today.”

This is one of the most aesthetically pleasing, technically complex projects that I’ve worked on. The cutting-edge design set some significant challenges but overcoming these together with such a fantastic partner has been immensely rewarding. Our relationship with Chadwick spans many years and projects – they always deal with things in such a mature fashion and we resolve things smoothly on the ground to deliver what’s required.

The scale and complexity of the MTB demanded that information be shared collaboratively in one online space. The project team estimate that BIM workflows saved them 119 days and USD$65,000 in creating fabrication drawings for just one zone of block work. They also cite enhanced collaboration, reducing the cycle of critical RFIs down from 28 days to just two-seven days. Working in a BIM environment enabled proposals to be tested virtually first before they were constructed for real out on site. The design team claim to have saved over USD$1m and 51,000 working hours purely in resolving clashes between the main façade and the various trades it interfaces with.