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Flight to the Future

Embarking on a new era of air travel, the Maharaja Bir Bikram Airport in Agartala, Tripura, stands proudly adorned with its grand New Integrated Terminal Building (NITB), inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Beyond being a state-of-the-art facility designed to accommodate over 3 million passengers annually, this architectural marvel is a testament to blending modernity with cultural richness.

With the grand inauguration of the Maharaja Bir Bikram Airport in Agartala, Tripura has transformed into a landmark with the unveiling of its New Integrated Terminal Building (NITB).
Designed to accommodate over
3 million passengers annually, this state-of-the-art terminal marks a significant leap in enhancing air connectivity in the North East.

Boasting a built-up area of 30,000 sq m, the NITB is equipped with modern amenities, inline baggage screening technology (ILBS), and an increased number of check-in counters to facilitate a seamless travel experience three times its previous capacity. The airport, a blend of Tripura’s cultural richness, natural beauty, and cutting-edge facilities, not only serves as a vital transportation hub but also positions Tripura as
a burgeoning gateway to the northeast.

Unleashing creativity
Architect Gurpreet S Shah, Principal Architect & Managing Director, Creative Group delves into the design details, “The key design objectives for the Maharaja Bir Bikram Airport’s new terminal aimed to go beyond conventional airport structures. Our vision was to sculpt a sustainable legacy that seamlessly blends functionality with cultural richness. We prioritised historical significance, acknowledging the airport’s role during World War II.”

The design embodies sustainability, with features like Jaalis and bamboo architecture reflecting the local environment. The 2 MW solar power plant and Intelligent Building Management System showcase a commitment to eco-friendly practices. Cultural integration is evident in Jaali’s work, sculptures, and locally sourced materials, fostering a sense of pride and connectivity for all travellers.

Surmounting hurdles
Designing the Maharaja Bir Bikram Airport Terminal in Agartala presented unique challenges and considerations. The region’s topography and climate played pivotal roles in shaping the design choices. The hilly terrain inspired the sweeping roof profile, providing a free-flowing terminal design while simplifying construction.

One challenge was managing solar radiation, addressed through the incorporation of jaalis for shade and optimal daylight. The use of bamboo architecture, a sustainable material abundant in the region, was
both a cultural nod and an
eco-friendly solution.

Another consideration was the need for a sustainable energy source. This led to the installation of a 2 MW solar power plant, aligning with the commitment to green practices. The integration of local motifs and materials, such as bamboo sculptures, ensured the design resonated authentically with Tripura’s environment.

Shah highlights, “Our design choices were intricately tied to the local landscape, climate, and the necessity for sustainable solutions, making the Maharaja Bir Bikram Airport terminal a testament to thoughtful, context-specific architecture.”

Cutting-Edge integration
Steel played a crucial role in the Maharaja Bir Bikram Airport terminal’s design, contributing to both its structural integrity and aesthetic appeal. The innovative use of steel was instrumental in achieving the project’s vision.

He adds, “The integration of steel in the Maharaja Bir Bikram Airport project goes beyond structural necessity. It becomes an integral part of the artistic and cultural narrative, exemplifying how innovative approaches to steel usage can elevate both form and function in architectural design.”

The terminal’s façade showcases bamboo architecture through a floral GRC tree jaali pattern made with steel. This adds an artistic dimension, representing the lush forests of the region and demonstrates an inventive use of steel as a medium for cultural expression.

Additionally, steel was employed in the construction of the terminal’s sweeping roof profile, inspired by the hilly terrain of Tripura. This not only provides a distinctive architectural feature but also showcases the versatility and strength of steel in creating large, aesthetically pleasing structures.

Mapping success
The architect elaborates that the design stage was a collaborative effort involving in-depth planning and creative exploration. It spanned approximately 12 months, from conceptualisation to finalisation. This phase included detailed discussions on cultural integration, sustainability features, and the incorporation of innovative design elements using steel and bamboo.

The construction phase commenced immediately after finalising the design, with a groundbreaking in 2016. “The timeline for construction was estimated at two years and six months,” Shah says, “taking into account the complexity of the design and the need for precision in executing sustainable features.” Construction milestones were established to monitor progress, with periodic assessments to ensure adherence to the proposed timeline.

The budget for the entire project, including the design stage and construction, was set at Rs 318.41 crore. This allocation covered expenses related to materials, labour, sustainability features, and artistic elements. A detailed breakdown of the budget was established to track and manage costs effectively.

Smooth sailing
Addressing potential delays or unforeseen challenges is integral to the success of any project. The same was true for the NITB. The team implemented comprehensive contingency plans to ensure the smooth progression of the construction phase.
“Before commencing construction, a thorough risk assessment was conducted to identify potential challenges. This proactive approach allowed us to categorise risks based on their likelihood and impact,” says Shah. Moreover, a contingency budget was allocated to address unexpected expenses that may arise due to unforeseen challenges. This financial buffer ensured that the project remained financially viable in the face of unexpected hurdles.

The construction phase was closely monitored through regular progress reports and site inspections. Any deviations from the timeline or unexpected challenges were promptly reported, allowing swift decision-making and corrective action. He further elaborates, “Our project management approach is adaptive, allowing for adjustments in real-time. This flexibility enables us to respond promptly to unforeseen challenges and implement alternative strategies to mitigate delays.”

Prioritising effective communication with stakeholders, including contractors, suppliers, and local authorities, ensured a collaborative approach to address challenges collectively, minimising impacts on the project timeline.

Given the remote nature of the project site, additional measures were in place to account for logistical challenges associated with remote areas. Special attention was given to transportation, supply chains, and workforce management to ensure project success despite the distance from urban centres.

“Our contingency plans are multi-faceted,” states Shah, “encompassing financial preparedness, proactive risk management, adaptive project management, and transparent communication.”

Nurturing tomorrow
Sustainability is at the core of the Maharaja Bir Bikram Airport project, both in its facilities and infrastructure. The solar power plant reduces reliance on conventional energy sources. An Intelligent Building Management System ensures efficient control and management of the building’s energy usage, optimising resource efficiency. The project strives for a four-star GRIHA rating, highlighting a dedication to environmentally sustainable construction practices.

The terminal incorporates energy-efficient features like LED lighting and automated lighting control to minimise energy consumption in daily operations. Sustainable material use, such as bamboo in the facade and interior sculptures, contributes to reducing the environmental footprint. Natural lighting is optimised through skylights and strategically placed windows, minimising the reliance on artificial lighting and enhancing overall energy efficiency.

Enhancing comfort
The design of the new terminal building is intricately tailored to enhance the overall passenger experience, considering both functionality and aesthetics. The interior spaces celebrate the local culture and heritage of Tripura, fostering a sense of connection for passengers. Jaali work, sculptures, and murals create an ambience that resonates with the region’s artistic traditions.

The design prioritises passenger well-being and connectivity with the surrounding environment. Courtyards at arrival and departure areas, along with green cover and open spaces, create a well-lit and inviting atmosphere.

Shah elaborates, “The layout is designed for seamless passenger flow, minimising congestion and optimising efficiency. The free-flowing terminal, inspired by the hilly terrain of Tripura, adds to the spatial experience.”

The waiting area showcases bamboo stem sculptures, providing seating and fostering an immersive connection with the local environment. This design enhances the waiting experience, offering both comfort and aesthetic appeal.

Skylights and strategically placed windows maximise natural daylight, creating a bright and welcoming atmosphere throughout the terminal. This not only reduces the need for artificial lighting but also contributes to overall passenger comfort.

Peak operational efficiency
The Maharaja Bir Bikram Airport project incorporates cutting-edge technologies and smart solutions to enhance operational efficiency, and the design is forward-looking to accommodate future technological advancements in airport operations.

The Intelligent Building Management System is a cornerstone technology that ensures efficient control and management of the building’s energy usage. This system optimises resource efficiency and contributes to the overall sustainability.

Automated lighting control is incorporated to enhance energy efficiency, not only delivering operational cost savings but also aligning with the latest advancements in smart building technologies.

The design takes into account the evolving landscape of airport operations, featuring flexible infrastructure and adaptive spaces that accommodate emerging technologies. This approach ensures that the terminal remains technologically relevant in the future.

The focus on enhancing the passenger experience extends to leveraging technologies for convenience. Future provisions for advanced check-in systems, automated baggage handling, and smart wayfinding solutions are considered in the design.

 

By integrating these technologies and anticipating future advancements, the Maharaja Bir Bikram Airport terminal is positioned not just as a contemporary facility, but as a technologically resilient and adaptable hub for air travel in the years to come.

QuoteShoot:
“Designing Agartala’s new terminal has been a captivating odyssey. The dance of steel and bamboo, coupled with avant-garde technologies, paints a canvas of innovation. This project is not just a hub for travel, but a poetic symbol of progress, seamlessly connecting community with its rich heritage, and charting a course towards a sustainable future in aviation.”
-Gurpreet S Shah, Principal Architect & Managing Director, Creative Group

Fact File
Project: New Integrated Terminal Building and associated works at Agartala Airport, TripuraArchitectural Firm: Creative Group LLP
Client: Airport Authority of India
Built-up Area: 31,500 sq m
Cost: Rs 450 Crores

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