Berlin’s Airports: (Almost) Ready For Take Off
By Peter Sacco
October 2016 will mark the opening of the new Berlin Brandenburg Airport, which will replace Schönefeld and Berlin Tegel Airports in both former East and West Germany and reintroduce Berlin as the dominant gateway for travel around the world. This project was once thought to open by 2010, and now delay after delay has moved up the opening date.
The German people, used to things happening on time, have been particularly disappointed in by a 50-months delay due to problems with fire-control systems. In September, they were even more upset to hear that the latest delay will be much longer. Extensive testing was done in spring 2012, with thousands of ordinary Germans pretending to be passengers walking through the new terminals and more than 300,000 pieces of test luggage put through tests.
The Berlin Wall fell in 1989 and the German Unification Treaty was signed in 1990. Now, we are set to witness the final step towards the complete reunification of East and West Germany, and the city of Berlin with a sparkling new airport that will be state of the art in all ways.
“Berliners are really waiting for the new airport,” says Burkhard Kieker, CEO of VisitBerlin, the city’s tourism and convention bureau. “We say it’s one of the last missing jigsaw puzzle pieces in the resurrection of Berlin as an international mega city.”
Currently the Berlin Brandenburg Airport is in the last stages of construction, with over 5,500 workers employed in applying the final touches to over 35,000 tons of reinforced steel. The final product will be stunning; the new airport will cover 3,675 acres, equal to roughly 2,000 football fields.
Eco Friendly Airport
With a host of sleek ultra-modern buildings equipped with eco-friendly infrastructure and state-of-the-art runways, the new airport in Berlin will rival the grandeur of any preexisting transportation hub. However, innovation doesn’t come cheap. The Berlin Brandenburg Airport will cost upwards of 2.5 billion Euros, a price that Berliners and investors alike are happy to accept in return for a reunited central transportation hub.
With the capacity to accommodate up to 45 million passengers a year, Berlin’s Brandenburg Airport will boast six floors and two parallel runways, which can be operated either independently or simultaneously. Passengers will find a slew of both domestic and intercontinental flights under the same roof. Regular occupants of Brandenburg will be Germany’s two major airlines, Lufthansa and Airberlin, which have extended their international flight operations in light of the new airport.
“Berlin has once again established itself as the gateway across the world,” says Kirsten Schmidt, of VisitBerlin.
A Key Stepping Stone
“This airport not only marks the progress Germany has made since the Cold War, but also cements the city as the key stepping stone for international travelers everywhere.”
The innovative airport above ground is matched by state-of-the-art infrastructure below ground. A bustling subway system directly below the main airport terminal will ensure that the new airport is easily accessible from all directions.
Trains will leave for all points of the airport’s compass every 15 minutes, and cost passengers just three Euros. Among the train routes is a handy direct line from the center of Berlin. Additionally, a new network of access roads and highways has been built, allowing travelers direct and easy access to the airport.
Directly in front of the main terminal are vast new parking lots with the capacity to accommodate 10,000 vehicles. For hundreds of thousands of Berliners, perhaps the most important upgrade is Brandenburg’s strategic relocation of air traffic to the outskirts of the city, which will seriously reduce air traffic noise and disturbance for city residents.
Brandenburg Goes Green
In today’s eco-sensitive society, even the most stunning engineering accomplishments can go uncelebrated in light of negative environmental impact. Luckily for the Berlin Brandenburg Airport, architects and ecologists have collaborated to achieve a simultaneously modern and green airport.
“They built the new airport completely from scratch.” Says Schmidt, “It is very much modern, state-of-the-art and eco-friendly, and the architects tried to incorporate as many green energy recycling methods as possible.”
Indeed, Berlin Brandenburg Airport’s spacious grounds have been splashed with islands of newly planted flora. Approximately 1,300 new trees have been planted on site, and ecologists have insured that for every tree felled during construction, a new tree seed has been sewn.
Prior to construction, the city sponsored a massive relocation of amphibians and bats. Thousands of garlic toads, moor frogs and other amphibians were relocated to newly built replacement ponds and streams nearby. The surrounding water sources were granted special safety measures, protecting them from waste contamination. In addition to the airport complex itself, ecologist successfully stressed protection of the environments below and around the airport, which have been altered by new roads and subway infrastructure.
An investment as massive as the Berlin Brandenburg Airport requires smart planning from the get-go. Investors in this project have long stressed the incorporation of environmentally friendly design the use or renewable energy. In light of this, engineers worked to ensure that individual buildings and structures achieve optimum energy consumption levels. Heat and energy recycling systems have been incorporated into the design of the airport, and plans have been drawn to incorporate rainwater cooling systems and geothermal energy in the near future.
Berlin Brandenburg Airport will meet a full half of its electricity requirements with energy derived from entirely renewable sources, and the result will be a 50 percent drop in CO2 emissions. An example of Brandenburg’s innovative green engineering is featured in the main terminal’s air conditioning, which will operate by circulating the cool air generated from drinking water and introduced through an on-site geothermal plant.
By adopting environmentally friendly measures and adhering to a green design, the Berlin Brandenburg Airport has successfully disassociated itself with many of the negativeenvironmental stigmas attributed to airport operations.
The Berlin Brandenburg Airport will replace three preexisting airports, which were previously operated exclusively out of either East of West Germany. The first to be replaced was Tempelhof, which was decommissioned in 2008. Then the Tegel and Schönefeld Airports will become obsolete as well, closing their doors to the public upon the introduction of Brandenburg.
Berlin’s New City Park
Instead of wiping Tegel Airport off the map, the city of Berlin has decided to transform the complex into a research facility for Berlin Technical University. Already rich in history from World War 2, it seems only fitting that the Tegel complex should have a further role in advancing the future.
“The transformation should begin some day” Says Schmidt, “Right now they’re still looking to attract more investors. They want to turn the old complex into a center for research, innovation and business, which I think is a great idea.”
Tempelhof the Park
However, by now Berliners should be accustomed to the reintroduction of old airports into their busy lives. The move to compound Tegel into the Technical University is preceded by a similarly unconventional renovation at Tempelhof. When Tempelhof was decommissioned in 2008, the city pursued the development of a massive city park. Now, just 2 kilometers from the center of Berlin, thousands of people regularly congregate to barbeque, roller-skate, ride bikes and sun bathe.
A virtual oasis in a sea of steel and concrete, the new city park provides Berliners with a place close to home where they can unwind and recreate. The complex, which had been off limits to civilians for over a century, is now speckled with picnic blankets and high-flying kites.
“The whole Tempelhof complex is a historic site,” says Schmidt, “And it’s great that the city has turned it over to the Berliners. Everyday they are planting more trees and flowerbeds, but general recreation isn’t all the complex is used for. The city frequently hosts concerts, fairs and other events, using Tempelhof as the venue.”
Indeed, in 2009 Tempelhof hosted the BREAD & BUTTER Fashion Trade Show and the Berlin Festival Concert in succession. Both events were met with great success, and Tempelhof was next used to host the Berlin Marathon Fair, which was held within the airport’s airy hangar. For everyday use entrance to the park is free, and the city opens the gates between 6am and sunset.
The success of Tempelhof as a venue and recreational park has spurred the city to invest further. In fact, a plan to pump several million Euros into the park has been proposed, which would further develop its capacity to host both everyday sunbathers and weekend events.
Peter Sacco is a former editorial assistant at GoNOMAD. Now he lives in Guatemala.
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