To accommodate the rising number of passengers at Copenhagen airport, a major expansion has commenced. The first construction known as Finger E requires every skill available to  live up to strict requirements in terms of functionality and security. 

Planes are popping in and out of a grey, heavyset layer of clouds, and rainwater turns the floors into elaborate mirrors that reflect concrete, steel, glass and the traffic in the sky above.

It is hard to imagine that this busy building site next year will accommodate thousands of passengers every day travelling to and from Copenhagen Airport. But to Chief Project Manager Henrik Wallentin Poulsen, every little nook and corner has a specific function that meets the demands of the client. 

When he pulls out his phone, he reveals a 3D rendition of the building visualising what it will eventually look like – even though the plans change continuously. 

When all is said and done, I will know everything about these buildings.  
Henrik Wallentin Poulsen Chief Project Manager

"You have to be quick on your feet. There are a lot of stakeholders and they all wish to influence the project. Often their interests clash – it may be great for the cleaning crew to work with shiny surfaces, but for the IT department it can be a pain because the shine will obstruct security cameras. I like the challenge though. When all is said and done, I will know everything about these buildings," Henrik Wallentin Poulsen explains. 

WHERE ARE THE PASSENGERS?

One of the major challenges evolves around the question: Where are the passengers at a given point in time? And where are they going?
 
1,500 passengers an hour pass through the walkway by the construction site. The primary objective is to create something that can serve people who are continuously on the go, and also meet the vast number of security requirements.
 
Originally, the new Finger E was supposed to consist of a three-storey main building and a support building covering a total of 22,000 m². These buildings were to be connected by a small walkway, which has now been replaced by an entirely new 2,000 m² building due to new security requirements. 
 
"It is a big puzzle to solve to make everything work together, such as predictions regarding air traffic over the next 10 years and what type of passengers we are designing for. One of the things I love about this project is that I never really know what is waiting for me on the horizon," explains Project Designer Stig Skeem.  
 

From four to fourteen control points

Not only does the client have demands that can change over time, but so do the authorities. From 7th October last year, new EU rules meant that both Schengen and non-Schengen passengers must have their passports checked. This is why there is a sudden need for an extra building. 

"Usually you would have two policemen checking passports quickly waving you along. Now every passport has to be scanned. Instead of 5 seconds, you are going to spend about 42 seconds per passenger. This requires a whole new structure," Henrik Wallentin Poulsen explains.

Now instead of four there has to be room for 14 border control points. Passengers will also be separated into three groups: Schengen, non-Schengen and people travelling from places where the EU authorities deem that the security checks do not live up to EU standards.

"It is incredible to see a passageway turn into a building almost 40 metres wide, but it is also important that we do not consider changes to be negative. It is an art in itself to meet these challenges with a positive attitude. Instead of bumps on the road we perceive them as a new, exciting twist to the process," Stig Skeem says.

Changes coming up

Customs also tightened security by not allowing arriving and departing passengers to mix, before having been checked. This is to avoid that items can be exchanged between them. Instead of being one of the final processes, customs will be located in continuation of border control. 

"What you are supposed to build on day 1 is never what you end up building. There will always be changes; however, it is very rare that you have to create an entirely new facility in the middle of everything. Therefore, it is important to work with people who are not only highly skilled, but also able to adapt to changes rather quickly," Henrik Wallentin Poulsen explains.

BIG PROJECTS REQUIRE GREAT COLLABORATION

COWI's responsibilities go across sectors from construction and installation to cost and work environment. Most people associated with the project are located in COWI in Lyngby, but colleagues in Jutland and India also contribute with important tasks. 

For Henrik Wallentin Poulsen, being able to draw on each other's experiences and specialist knowledge is central to successfully completing the project. 

"Fortunately, I have never experienced a shortage of knowledge in COWI – and I have worked here for 18 years," Henrik Wallentin Poulsen concludes. 

 

FACTS

  • The passenger flow through Copenhagen Airport is expected to increase from 29,2 million in 2017 to 40 million over the next 20 to 25 years.
  • Finger E is the first construction in the plan to expand Copenhagen Airport to accommodate the increasing number of passengers.
  • Finger E will consist of a three-storey terminal building, a support building and a building that connects the two.  
  • COWI is the main consultant

PROJECT DETAILS

LOCATION:
Copenhagen, Denmark

PERIOD:
2016 - 2019

CLIENT:
Københavns Lufthavne A/S

COWI'S SERVICES: 

  • Acoustic
  • Light
  • Indoor climate
  • Safety
  • Fire
  • Structures, mechanical and electrical installations.