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Does rejection of ‘Boris Island’ spell an ill wind for London?

Copyright Heathrow Airports Ltd

Copyright Heathrow Airports Ltd

Controversy over the proposed location of a new runway serving London soared to new heights this week after the government’s Airports Commission rejected plans for a new hub airport in the Thames Estuary to the east of UK capital.

The plans – dubbed ‘Boris Island’ are the brainchild of Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, who has reacted furiously to the decision that now leaves proposals for a new third runway at Heathrow as clear front-runner on the Commission’s short-list. A new second runway at London Gatwick is another, less favoured contender, as is an extension of an existing runway at Heathrow.

Airports Commission chair, Sir Howard Davies, says of the decision: “We are not persuaded that a very large airport in the Thames Estuary is the right answer to London’s and the UK’s connectivity needs.

“While we recognise the need for a hub airport…there are serious doubts about the delivery and operation of a very large hub airport in the estuary. The economic disruption would be huge and there are environmental hurdles which it may prove impossible, or very time-consuming to surmount. Even the least ambitious version of the scheme would cost £70 to £90 billion with much greater expenditure involved than in other options – probably some £30 to £60 billion in total.”

Copyright Foster + Partners How the thwarted Thames Estuary hub airport might have looked.

Copyright Foster + Partners
How the thwarted Thames Estuary hub airport might have looked.

Where the wind blows

In a column written for the UK’s Telegraph newspaper, Johnson rails against the fact that the way ahead now appears to be open for expansion of Heathrow after the country’s upcoming general elections in May 2015. (The UK government vowed not to bring in the Heathrow option during its current term of office.)

He warns: “Heathrow is already by far the noisiest airport in Europe, about a hundred times worse than Paris. A third runway will mean that there are more than a million people in the city affected by noise pollution of more than 55db – well over a third of all the victims of such aircraft noise in the whole of Europe.

“It will mean more of the medical problems associated with such pollution – stress, heart disease, etc; more struggling in school; vastly more road congestion and pollution in west London.”

Heathrow does indeed find itself in the unusual position of being a major airport situated to the west of a city, with the UK’s prevailing westerly winds blowing air pollution straight into the lungs of the capital. And its asthma and allergy suffers.

And Johnson is not the only one upset. Architects, Foster + Partners, worked alongside him to create the masterplan for the Thames Estuary proposals.

In a strong statement issued to the press, practice founder, Lord Foster, asserts: “I predict that Londoners will be scathing in their condemnation of today’s [this week’s] announcement, when confronted with the inevitability of the blighting influence of Heathrow – the risks, noise and environmental impact of overflying London – and its inability to cope with predicted growth.”

He describes adding a third runway at Heathrow as ‘merely a short term fix’ that will inevitably lead to a fourth runway in order to maintain international hub status.

He then draws a contentious conclusion: “The pattern of the most competitive emerging economies is to replace the old and obsolete and go boldly forward with the new, an opportunity today’s decision denies this country. The outcome of this process calls into question the validity of the Commission.”

Foster + Partners also claims that the Commission significantly overestimated the costs, and that independent estimates show that the new hub would cost ‘about £5 billion more when compared to expansion at Heathrow and would be faster to build’.

Hoping to befriend Boris…

However, not everyone is unhappy that Heathrow’s plans appear to be getting closer to take-off. The airport’s CEO, John Holland-Kaye, comments: “We have always agreed with the Mayor that Britain needs a successful hub airport to compete in the global race for jobs and growth. Heathrow is now the only hub left in the race. We would like to work with the Mayor to deliver Heathrow expansion in a way that benefits the whole country while reducing noise impacts for local people compared to today.”

Holland-Kaye wrote an open letter to Johnson echoing these sentiments, just prior to the Commission’s announcement on 2nd September. In the same letter, he also makes the case against Gatwick, stating: “Gatwick is different, it serves the short-haul and holiday market. We have nothing against Gatwick but you have rightly identified that its claim that it can deliver the same benefits as a hub airport is ‘a sham, a snare and a delusion’. I agree with you when you say a second runway at Gatwick would not make a bean of difference to the global connectivity we need.”

Copyright Heathrow Airports Ltd How Heathrow would look if a third runway is built.

Copyright Heathrow Airports Ltd
How Heathrow would look if a third runway is built.

However, in this fiercely polarised debate there are those who robustly back Gatwick. The point-to-point airport’s chief executive, Stewart Wingate, argues: “We believe Gatwick has the strongest case. It is the only option left on the table that can be delivered with more certainty than either of the Heathrow options, and it can be delivered without the significant environmental impacts expansion at Heathrow would inflict on London. It can be delivered faster than any other option, and at low cost and low risk.

“Furthermore, expanding Gatwick will ensure the UK is served by two successful world-class airports. It can liberate hub capacity at Heathrow and open up the opportunities for affordable long haul travel to emerging markets for the benefit of everyone.”

An article in the UK’s Guardian newspaper seems to agree, venturing: “Let’s not assume (at least yet) that a giant stitch-up to favour Heathrow is the inevitable outcome. In a world of necessary compromises, Gatwick still looks the least bad option.

“The argument that the UK must have a single ‘hub’ airport – meaning Heathrow – to make flights to deepest China viable has always seemed wildly overstated. Heathrow struggles to explain why so many short-haul holiday flights, carrying few transit passengers, still crowd its terminals. If we must have a new runway, Gatwick, the only airport capable of providing Heathrow with stiffer competition, looks the best answer’.


Time for action

Whatever final choice the Airports Commission makes next year, the urgency is indisputable. A report, The Nub is the Hub, from the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), also issued in the run-up to 2nd September, cautions: “With the UK’s hub capacity at Heathrow already full, the UK is falling behind on direct flights to emerging markets.

“The report highlights that by drawing heavily on transfer passengers, the UK’s EU competitors with their own unconstrained capacity are creating connections to new destinations within the BRICS such as Xiamen in China and Recife in Brazil, as well as links to the major markets of the future, like Peru, Indonesia, Taipei and Chile.”

Katja Hall, CBI Deputy Director-General, concludes: “The [UK] Chancellor has set businesses ambitious targets for increasing the UK’s exports, and there is simply no way of achieving these goals without upping our game in emerging markets.”

By Gail Taylor

The Panama Canal: 100 years old and still growing…


Click on image to enlarge

The Panama Canal has just celebrated a centenary of providing an essential shortcut for ships sailing between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

It was hoped the on-going Panama Canal Expansion project would be completed in time to coincide with the centenary, but strikes and cost overruns have pushed back the scheduled completion date to 2016.

The $3.2 bn expansion began in 2007 to allow the transit of modern-day Post-Panamax super-ships through three gigantic new locks. These vessels now dwarf the Panamax ships that were once considered huge themselves.


The first ship to traverse the 50-mile long Canal 100 years ago was the SS Ancon. In 2010, the Fortune Plum became the 1,000,000th vessel to make the journey.

Today, the Canal is estimated to carry about 3 per cent of the world’s maritime cargo, representing in the region of $270 bn’s worth of trade. Ships take around 10 hours to make the passage, shortening journeys by thousands of miles and dramatically reducing fuel costs.

Graphic courtesy of Panama Canal Authority

Click on image to enlarge – Graphic courtesy of Panama Canal Authority

Marking the centenary, the UK’s Daily Telegraph newspaper lists a number of interesting facts about the Panama Canal, for example that it ‘connects 144 maritime routes calling at 1,700 ports in 160 countries’.

The article goes on to report that ‘the most common cargo vessels to use the waterway each year are container ships (3,103), dry bulk carriers (2,903) and tankers (2,468)’.

Written By admin 
August 21, 2014 21:04 pm
Posted In Uncategorized

Recognition for Australia’s colossal new reverse-osmosis desalination plant

3002 vdp1

Located near Wonthaggi in Victoria, Australia, the Victorian Desalination Project (VDP) has just been awarded the coveted Sir Osborn McCutcheon Victorian Architecture Award for Commercial Architecture 2014 by the Australian Institute of Architects. Working on the $3.5bn PPP project – one of the largest in the world – were peckvonhartel, ARM Architecture and landscape architects ASPECT Studios. Work was completed in 2013.

Also heavily involved were engineers Beca and Parsons Brinkerhoff who formed a joint venture to deliver engineering design services for client, Thiess Degremont Joint Venture (contracted by AquaSure).

The plant is one of the largest reverse-osmosis desalination plants in the world, capable of supplying up to 150bn litres of water a year – more than a third of Melbourne’s annual water needs – with capability to expand to 200bn litres a year.

According to Beca, the VDP is ‘the most technically advanced, environmentally sensitive and energy efficient desalination facility in Australia’. Its concept is based on a ‘green line’ that runs through the site, moving from a natural landscape element to a constructed dune formation, a living green roof (the largest in the southern hemisphere), a footprint encompassing buildings and, ultimately, a restored landscape within a coastal park.

The Beca/Parsons Brinkerhoff joint venture provided engineering design and construction phase services for the reverse osmosis desalination plant, inlet and outlet tunnels, marine structures, 52-mile (84km) water transfer pipeline and 54-mile (87-kilometre) underground power line to supply power to the plant.

Locating the underground power supply in the same easement as the transfer pipeline minimised construction time and maximised the use of space.

The plant has a very small footprint, taking up just 94 acres (38 hectares) of the 650-acre (263-hectare) site. The remaining 556 acres (225 hectares) are an ecologically sustainable coastal park with new habitat for local fauna, including freshwater wetlands, woodland and coastal heath landscape.

3002 vdp3

The underground pipeline connects regional communities to drinking water from Melbourne’s Cardinia Reservoir or the desalination plant via delivery points along the pipeline, as and when required. The two-way desalination pipeline connects areas in South Gippsland and Western Port to the Melbourne water network.

In September 2012, drinking water began to flow from the Victorian Desalination Plant through the underground pipeline and into Melbourne’s Cardinia Reservoir as part of the project’s commissioning process.

Written By admin 
July 08, 2014 11:44 am
Posted In Uncategorized

General Electric to buy Alstom’s energy business for $17bn

The Board of French engineering company, Alstom has given the green light to US energy giant General Electric to purchase its energy business at a price of $17bn. In order to protect the country’s interests and facilitate the deal, the French government will purchase a 20% stake in Alstom from its main shareholder, Bouygues.

Siemens and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries also submitted acquisition proposals, but General Electric’s proposal won unanimous approval from Alstom directors. General Electric will now acquire Alstom’s power grid business, renewable operations, and nuclear steam turbines to form three joint ventures. In doing so, it hopes to open up its operations in China and Africa.

Conversely, General Electric (GE) is to sell its railway signal business to Alstom, who are the manufacturers of France’s TGV high speed trains. The deal is expected to close in 2015.

General Electric’s Chairman and CEO, Jeff Immelt said of the deal: “We will now move to the next phase of the Alstom alliance. We look forward to working with the Alstom team to make a globally competitive power and grid enterprise. We also look forward to working with the French government, employees and shareholders of Alstom. As we have said, this is good for France, GE and Alstom.”

According to a Reuters report, the two companies already have history. In Alstom’s home town of Belfort, 2,500 of its employees have worked for more than a decade ‘building electrical turbines just a few dozen metres away from a GE plant, whose workers they meet each day at lunchtime in a shared canteen’.

The article continues: “GE’s history in Belfort stretches back even further, to 1928, when one of its subsidiaries, Thomson-Houston, merged with the Socieate Alsacienne de Construction Mecanique to form Alssthom, then spelled with an ‘h’”.

Written by Gail Taylor

Bangkok’s skyride and skypark


Jon Sealey, Design Director of Marques and Jordy has submitted proposals to transform Bangkok’s skytrain system.

He proposes an elevated bicycle lane coined as “the skyride” which cantilevers from the existing train line structure. “The idea of the skyride is to reduce the congestion on the roads and encourage people to commute to work by cycling.” Explains architect Jon Sealey.


The sky ride offers a 55km of unparalleled cycle root through the heart of Bangkok and the suburbs East to the airport. Commuting times to the commercial centre would be reduced by as much 1.5 hours. “Bangkok is incredibly congested and the sky ride offers a way to reduce traffic and get people cycling.”

The proposal also offers an elevated park and a lowline park. The skypark landscape will be designed to reflect the identity of each local community it passes through and features local artworks and much needed public park space through the city. Jon explains “Bangkok is suffocated by concrete high rises. Development over the last 30 years has seen a massive decline in green space in the city. The skypark will provide the people of Bangkok with new accessible areas to enjoy running, walking and viewing the city from an elevated platform.”


The lowline will be a vibrant area for street vendors, markets and green space. Large sphere tent structures will have a variety of uses from housing emergency care units to structures to grow crops for the local communities.​


Written By admin 
May 16, 2014 11:32 am
Posted In Uncategorized

Dutch to advise on Jakarta flood protection Master Plan

Minister Schultz van Haegen (Infrastructure and the Environment) presented the Dutch-Indonesian National Capital Integrated Coastal Development (NCICD) flood protection plan in Jakarta today. She announced the plan together with the Indonesian Minister of Public Works, Djoko Kirmanto. The Master Plan contains a vision and practical recommendations aimed at guaranteeing the safety of Jakarta’s 4 to 5 million inhabitants in 2025.


Jakarta is facing significant challenges. The rate of land subsidence is some 15 cm per year, due to groundwater extractions, and an increasingly larger section of the city is below sea level. Heavy rainfall combined with years of overdue maintenance on flood defences increases the possibility of flooding. Increasing urbanisation is putting enormous pressure on the drinking water supply.
“In Jakarta, the speed at which spatial planning and water management must be adapted to the growing population and economy is unparalleled. I am proud to present this plan to you and I have every faith in the cooperation between our two countries,” Minister Schultz said at the presentation.


In 2008, Indonesia called on the Netherlands to aid in protecting Jakarta from high water. Indonesian and Dutch experts from the public and private sectors and research institutions worked on the Master Plan for National Capital Integrated Coastal Development (NCICD) for six years. Minister Schultz: “This is a highly ambitious plan. A plan with imaginative solutions like an outer sea wall in the form of Indonesia’s national symbol, the Great Garuda. The Master Plan is on schedule, in line with the desire of the Indonesian government to speed up the project.”

Trade mission

From 30 March to 4 April, Minister Schultz van Haegen of Infrastructure and the Environment is leading a trade mission to Jakarta and Surabaya. The visit is a follow-up to the mission to Jakarta led by Prime Minister Rutte in November 2013 and its aim is to intensify the existing cooperation between the two countries in the fields of water management and port development. Eighteen Dutch companies and organisations from the water and port sectors* are accompanying the minister They hope to contribute further to the new hydraulic engineering and port development projects in Indonesia. In addition to bilateral talks with Indonesian authorities, later in the week the delegation will visit the port of Surabaya, and the Indonesian Meteorological, Climatological and Geophysical Agency: the BMKG.

*Arcadis, BAM, Boskalis, Deltares, gemeente Rotterdam, Grontmij, IHC Merwede, KNMI, Kuiper Compagnons, Netherlands Water Partnership, Port of Rotterdam, Royal Haskoning DHV, Simavi, STC Group, Strukton, Van Oord, Witteveen and Bos.


Written By admin 
April 03, 2014 09:19 am
Posted In Uncategorized

World Cities Network to host energy resilience workshop in New York

9. WCN

World Cities Network will gather leaders in New York on October 8th to support the work on improving the resilience of New York City. During a one day workshop facilitated by Capgemini, and supported by Buro Happold and HOK, projects and initiatives in the city and internationally will be shared to develop an action plan to accelerate improvements to the city’s power network and to the way buildings use and interact with the grid. The benefits will be felt by everyone in the city and will help to protect and enhance the attractiveness of the New York as a place to invest, work, and live.

Participants will be drawn from city and private sector leadership including NYC Department Design + Construction, NYC Department Citywide Administration, NYC Mayors Office for Long Term Planning and Sustainability, Capgemini, Con Edison, Buro Happold, Deloitte, HOK, IBM, Jones Lang LaSalle, Pace Energy, Polytechnic Institute NYU, Siemens, Skanska, Urban Green, and ULI.

For more information contact:

Written By admin 
September 26, 2013 15:48 pm
Posted In Uncategorized