Berlin Brandenburg Airport

The following entry is a record in the “Catalogue of Catastrophe” – a list of failed or troubled projects from around the world.

Berlin – Germany
Project type : Airport Construction
Project name : Brandenburg airport
Date : Ongoing  Cost : 5B Euro

Synopsis :
Normally known for their efficiency and engineering prowess, the new airport in Berlin is a rare example of a troubled infrastructure project from the Federal Republic of Germany. Perhaps “Brandenbug” rather than “Brandenburg” airport would be a better name for the new airport in Berlin. Having missed 4 target dates for its opening, the project is still underway and rather than publishing a new date, the project has now adopted the “it’ll open when it opens” strategy to dodge any further embarrassments.

Regio 2N

Brandenburg Terminal (Source: Wiki commons – Fridolin freudenfett (Peter Kuley) – click for larger image

After 15 years on the drawing board, construction work started in September 2006. Original plans showed a target opening date of 30 October 2011. Initial estimates proved to be a little optimistic and following the business failure of the primary construction planning company, a delay to 3 June 2012 was announced. As the physical construction activities came to an end, the airport went into full test mode. Between November 2011 and May 2012 a battery of tests were performed to verify the operational readiness of the systems. While some systems did indeed pass their tests, with 26 days to go before the June 3rd opening date, news of serious problems broke.

Tests and quality inspections had found two significant issues. Firstly, the terminal’s fire protection and alarm systems were not built in accordance with the construction permit or appropriate building codes. Secondly, smoker extractor fans to be used in case of fire were ineffective. While normal building designs have smoke extractor units on the roof of the building (hot smokes rises), the Brandenburg terminal had a system of pumps and ducts below the building to draw smoke down and out of the building. Given that hot gases really do want to rise, tests showed that the system was ineffectual. The net result was a building in which the fire safety systems were non-functional and as a result the building could not be opened.

Further reviews and inspections have revealed a long list of problems. Reports indicate that an incredible 66,500 defects have been found. Of which 34,000 are described as “significant” and 5,845 as “critical”. From incorrect wiring, ducts without insulation and walls built to the wrong fire rating, reports now indicate that the terminal will require significant reconstruction to remediate the problems. Opening dates in 2016 have been floated, although some reports indicate that the opening will need to be pushed back as far as 2019.

Contributing factors as reported in the press:
Conceptual design flaws. Lack of quality management.

Other related stories

  1. Denver airport – full case study
  2. London Heathrow Terminal 5

Reference links :

  1. Brandenburg Airport wikipedia page
  2. Report Finds A Whopping 66,000 Problems With Berlin’s Delayed New Airport
  3. New Berlin airport has 66,500 problems
  4. Berlin’s yet-to-open airport weighed down by expensive problems
  5. Cost Explosion: Price Tag for New Berlin Airport Keeps Rising
  6. The curious case of Berlin’s Brandenburg Airport