Major Project Failure – Berlin Airport

AirportAs recently mentioned on my LinkedIn account, I like to follow the progress of major infrastructure projects world-wide. Especially those that show signs of failure. Failure is always an opportunity to learn and improve one’s own skills. Hence when I first read about the fact that the architect is sueing the operating company at BER airport for not following its design and causing the delays, it was time to read up on it. As Wikipedia states that especially the fire alarm and life safety system is heavily flawed at this building, I couldn’t believe my eyes. From my own experience in Macau, Fire Services are taken serious by architects and MEP engineers and every little change is to be documented, checked and audited. As such reading, that

The major issue responsible for the delayed opening is the fact that the fire protection and alarm system in the terminal building has not been built according to the construction permit. Therefore, it failed the TÜV acceptance test (a prerequisite for the airport to be opened), and a proposed solution with human fire watches (up to 700 people would have been employed for this job) was rejected by the building supervision of the local Dahme-Spreewald district. There are flaws concerning the wiring, programming and implementing of the highly complex system, by which sprinklers, smoke extractors and fire doors will be controlled fully automaticly.[2] Because of aesthetic reasons, it was decided that the BER terminal building would not have any smoke pipes on its rooftop. Therefore, in case of fire, smoke would be pumped into exhaust pipes that are running below the building (thus running against the physical property of hot air to rise upwards), a set-up that at this scale is considered to be unique. So far, this does not work as anticipated.[3] Also, the train station underneath the terminal building is not properly linked to the fire protection system. To meet the requirements for the fire system to pass the acceptance test, large scale reconstruction work might be needed.[24]

project management of this critical infrastructure project has failed tremendously. Luckily enough the flaws were detected prior to opening, not as with the case of the Delhi Metro Airport Express that went into operation before noticing cracks on the elevated pillars and cave-in dangers on the tunnels. Please take a minute to read up on these two projects, the background stories, the fights that are being put forward in press, court and cross-company-claims and the personal biographies of project managers, major stakeholders and other individuals involved. Apply the lessons you draft in your head on your daily work and ensure that such things do not happen again!

Photo taken above is taken from a Lufthansa Airbus at Delhi Airport, India.



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