Chennai airport

November 29, 2021, 03:54 pm IST

When marvels are created many dreams are realized and the whole world appreciates its glory. The same is evident in the newly constructed Chennai Airport- “a Jewel in the crown of the whole of Asia Pacific.”

“Airports and Terminals are by nature energy guzzlers but Chennai Airport has proved that architects commitment to sustainability can make the structure regardless of typology and size environment friendly.”

- Ar. Gurpreet S Shah

The new Domestic and the International Terminals at the Chennai Airport is an elegant modern structure defined by dramatic, twin wing-like hovering roofs providing 300 meter long, column-free spaces. The straightforward planning and super-efficient organization of the program, security and circulation forms the basis of an innovative design that incorporates vibrant sustainable gardens. Unlike any other airport in the world, lush gardens are visible throughout the terminal creating a unique dialogue between engineering and nature, interior and exterior spaces and man’s relationship to earth and air travel.

The building’s open-web, steel superstructure subtly rises to support twin-curved roofs that define a light and open, column-free terminal and shade expansive glass curtain walls. Skylights highlight the geometry of the trusses, further defining the structural framework to allow natural light to permeate the terminal with a constantly changing pattern of shade and shadow.



For both the Domestic and International Terminals, the structure essentially generates the design of the buildings. Repeating large, arching trusses offer great expanses of column-free public spaces on both the landside and airside. The triangulated truss-like structural members result in maximum efficiency from engineering, fabrication and construction considerations. By continuing the trusses at the garden facades, the large forces generated at the base of these elements are transferred directly into the foundations.

The great cantilevered curve of the front (landslide) roof structure is supported on large, paired “V” positioned full height columns. The forward slope of the columns stiffens the trusses to resist transverse wind and seismic forces. In the longitudinal direction, the paired “V” configuration of the columns works integrally with a longitudinal compression truss to create a repetitive series of stable triangulated elements that resists both longitudinal wind and seismic forces.

The space defined by the arching and curving roof has been designed so that public spaces remain column free at all terminal levels. The building’s steel structure rises with a curved roof to form a light and open, column-free terminal with expansive glass curtain walls that create a feeling of spaciousness. 


The Chennai Airport, one of the Asia’s largest green terminals covers a total site area of 100 acres. The terminal buildings (domestic and international), with elegant 300 m twin wing- like hovering roofs on both sides provide complete shade to the south facing elevation and protects the departing passengers from scorching heat. These buildings, designed in H shape, curtail the use of artificial lights as they permeate maximum flow of natural light.

The international and domestic terminal is connected with a steel glass tube (750m approx.) which give the passengers a freeway for movement. The airport is well connected with three modes of transportation – metro, railway station and highway which makes it one of the most easily commuted airports in the country. In addition to this, it also facilitates multi-level car parking with a module of 1200 cars in each unit with ultimate capacity of 4800 cars and having a city side commercial area of more than 25000 sqm.

The terminal buildings also include varied activity areas such as Office Area of more than 16,500 sqm. and Commercial Space of 7,500 sqm. which comprises restaurant, cafeteria, duty free and other facilities. 


Pioneer in designing sustainable airports, the architects have carefully planned and implemented various active and passive green measures, making use of the best available resources. Retention of storm water and rain water harvesting recharges ground water, to ensure judicious and energy efficient functioning of the terminal. 

Achieving 43% reduction in water consumption, the terminal building complies with the ECBC (Energy Conservation Building Codes) for attaining the energy savings. Abiding by the energy saving scheme the airport terminal is equipped with T5 light fittings with automatic perimeter light sensing controls. All thermal insulants and refrigerants are endowed with substances with zero Ozone depleting potential (OPD).


Thinnest Flyover: Taking forward the V-column, to support the thinnest flyover (spanning 1.2Km), creates directly visibility from the city side. Not compromising on the visual impact of the terminal on the passengers, the flyover lets the glass terminal charm travels in style. The Thin flyover has a box frame that spans 14 meters resting on T beams, which are not only 400 mm thick but are also hollow from inside. The structural marvel not only saves more than 25% concrete but has also successfully implemented new technology of steam curing in India.


Elliptical Bridge: The Elliptical Bridge or the arrival tube connects the landside with the airside operations through the Central courtyard. The elliptical glass tube makes up for a futuristic impression, amidst the beautifully landscaped garden and thus strengthening the alliance between man and nature.  

The Connecting Tube: An 800M long glass tube connects all the existing and the proposed terminals. 24 no. travellators of 1000mm width are provided for movement of passengers from one terminal to another. 


Combination of active and passive green strategies shape both the terminals. In addition to shape, size and orientation, much thought has been added to the material application of the building. Where autoclaved aerated blocks (A.A.C) and double glazed structural glazing shield the façade from the harsh solar gains, the double layer of aluminum roofing system restricts thermals roof gains. A sheet of green grass pavers helps to minimize the hard surface, by creating a permeable membrane to water absorption. 


In addition, use of active strategies such as water conservation and management play a fundamental role in imparting the terminals there much adorned sustainable stature. Recycling of water by use of STP/ETP so that fresh water is only used for drinking/washing and recycled water is used in HVAC, gardening and flushing results into a 50% saving. Coupled with latest techniques for storm water retention and ground water recharge, delivers a significant water savings of 73%. Application of energy efficiency equipment and building management system (BMS) truly renders to create a smart airport of the new generation.


Beautifully tied up with vertical landscaping, the terminal airport seamlessly blurs boundaries between inside and outside. Arriving through the majestic glass tube, instantly releases the travel fatigue as one is visually treated to the lush vertical gardens.  With a layer of glazing all around and surrounding greens, the passengers are offered views to the green. The building is designed around two green courtyards termed as the central green spine. The two wings are connected by an elliptical glass tube which is positioned amidst the vertical greens giving the visitor an experience of walking among the greens. The landscape is dotted with vertical gardens and lush planting strips with interspersed reflection pools and local palm groves. Vertical gardens consist of stainless steel structure lattices providing support for hanging plants including colorful vegetation such as orchids.

The domestic and international terminals are not just engineering marvels but synergized an organic form which is a beautiful combination of architecture and engineering.