Reaching the best possible design solution for every project always requires a comprehensive and holistic approach from our in-house project designers, sustainability consultants and technology experts. They must consider numerous factors, from site constraints and a detailed understanding of all relevant planning requirements to wider plot, community and environmental contexts and client commercial expectations.

One challenge our team is currently tackling is designing a building to meet very specific needs, those implemented on every new building in close proximity to an airport. This article explores these challenges.

Bespoke design considerations for buildings near airports

Our design proposals for the regeneration of a neglected 15-acre brownfield site of former office and industrial buildings close to the runway at Heathrow Airport had to meet the additional unique requirements for construction around aviation facilities.

The designs for a new cutting-edge industrial and logistics facility had to adhere to the regulations set out within the Heathrow Airport safeguarding document and the safeguarding maps certified by the Civil Aviation Authority.

The massing and orientation of the buildings was laid out to avoid penetration of safeguarding airspace and reflection or refraction of radar signals and other navigation systems. The buildings are also designed to perform as an acoustic buffer to noise levels.

The specification of building materials needed to prevent glint and glare impact for pilots or air traffic control, and the design of lighting could not cause a distraction or confusion for pilots or Air Traffic Control.

In addition, the surrounding landscape design could incorporate only non-bird attracting trees and shrubs to prevent any increase or change in bird activity that could be hazardous to aircraft safety.

Ensuring the design was suitable for the wider community

In addition to addressing these very specific physical and landscaping restrictions, our design needed to bring the underused site back to commercial viability with an industrial capacity uplift to deliver new job opportunities, a best-in-class specification and excellent environmental performance.

Our consultation with local stakeholders highlighted their concerns and perceptions about the impact of the re-development on a site which is under a flight path, close to a high-density airport site, adjacent to a local primary school and surrounded by a neglected inaccessible nature reserve, local river corridor and Green Belt.

The development of our design took care to address these concerns. It incorporated features such a dedicated footpath link to the regenerated nature reserve with new pathways to reconnect the community including the nearby primary school, as well as protection of the green barrier between the school and the new development. Buildings are set back from the green boundaries, with their massing, architecture, elevations and roof profiles designed to complement the views from the school and the Green Belt.

The detail of the warehouse facades has been designed with a flat panel metal cladding system, broken up by profiled cladding and coloured vertical fins. Panels in grey, light and dark green break the mass of the elevation to provide visual mitigation and a softer more interesting elevation in conjunction with the low-level landscape and tree buffer planting. A continuous grey parapet edge helps the horizontal line blend into the skyline, with vertical green strips below designed to merge into the landscape providing a visual transition between building and landscape.

Our response to the design challenges and opportunities of this project demonstrates our holistic approach to the unique challenges of each project which incorporates innovation, sustainability and wellbeing, and digital transformation.

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