Foster + Partners will be able to lay claim to the largest building in the world when the new terminal at Beijing Capital International Airport opens its doors on 29 February.

Completed in only four years, and in time for the Beijing Olympics, Terminal 3 is the first building to break the one million square metre barrier – measuring in at 1.3 million.

Despite its size, Foster + Partners says the building has been designed to keep fuss to a minimum, incorporating the latest in airport technologies, with “spatial clarity” creating an easy to navigate layout.

The terminal is divided into three distinct sections – T3 A, B and C – covering arrivals and departures halls (A), international gates (B) and a satellite connection (C).

“This arrangement is an efficient means of maximising the perimeter, so increasing the capacity for aircraft stands, while maintaining a highly compact and sustainable footprint,” Foster + Partners says.

The airport is projected to serve 50 million passengers a year by 2020 and has been built around principles of sustainability and to maximise the use of natural light.

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“All spaces are naturally lit and the generous glazing and skylights maintain a link with the outside and its changing sky,” Foster + Partners says.

“The terminal building is one of the world’s most sustainable, incorporating a range of passive environmental design concepts, such as the southeast-oriented skylights, which maximise heat gain from the early morning sun, and an integrated environment-control system that minimises energy consumption.

“Rather than the sprawl of many separate buildings, it uses less land by bringing everything closer together for ease of communication in one efficient structure, yet it is still 17 percent bigger than the combined floorspace of all of Heathrow’s Terminals 1, 2, 3, 4 and the new Terminal 5.”

By Penny Jones