Tim Kempster, managing director, in the first of a two-part article, looks at airport security and the role of glazing systems.
The threat of terrorist attack remains very real, not least at airports.
Let’s not forget the 2016 attack at Brussels Airport that killed some 30 people.
Or the Istanbul airport attack in the same year which killed over 45 people.
However, it would be simplistic to see terrorism at airports simply in terms of Moslem extremism.
Let’s not forget that it was Irish terrorists who fired mortar bombs onto the runway at London Heathrow in 1994.
They failed to detonate but underline how airport security must be considered outside, not just inside, the airport’s perimeter.
Airports are a prime target because they can have a pivotal role in regional or national economies and, for the terrorists, significant news value.
Nor is the threat confined to larger hub airports. The 2007 attack at Glasgow airport underlines how terrorism can be both national or local.
But it would also be simplistic to consider airport security purely in terms of terrorist threat. In 2013, Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta airport, the busiest in East Africa, was hit by fire.
The catastrophic fire, most probably started by faulty wiring, demonstrates how a major infrastructure asset can quickly become a national liability.
The airport, built in an age before modern fire regulations and protective systems, was extensively damaged. However, perhaps remarkably, there were no casualties.
The Nairobi fire is a stark reminder of the importance of identifying every conceivable threat, and making sure that emergency procedures are routinely tested.
Countering those threats starts with a comprehensive assessment of the risks the airport might face. That’s both in terms of an accidental or deliberate interruption to its operations.
Modern building safety is determined by taking a multi-disciplinary approach to assessing those hazards. They include power failure to cyber-attack, and from civil disorder to fire and explosive detonation.
For an airport, other factors might have to be considered. From the kinds of threat specific to that country or region, to the airlines that make use of the facility.
The fact is that, while terrorism is often a blunt instrument involving random carnage, it can also be targeted more specifically.
There are a number of assessment methodologies to understand the potential threats, identify the assets to be protected, and how best to mitigate against those risks.
That assessment then guides the design team in determining acceptable risks and the cost-effectiveness of the measures proposed.
That includes security measures outside the airport, and in all interior spaces.
Nowadays, glass and glazing systems are an integral part of all modern airport designs.
It’s a versatile material that can provide security, acoustic comfort, lighting and energy efficiency.
But for safety, glass needs a framing system to meet the challenges of terrorist attack or fire.
Picture courtesy of Chuttersnap on Unsplash