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Seismic protection for airport terminal in Mexico

The new major airport Felipe Ángeles (AIFA) is about to be built, near Mexico City. To protect the huge terminal against earthquakes, it will be isolated from the subsoil by means of special sliding pendulum bearings – this will make it the largest isolated building in Latin America. The inauguration is scheduled for March 21, 2022.

Previously the military airport Santa Lucía was situated on the premises 40 km northeast from the centre of Mexico City. Part of the existing structures can be reused for the new international airport AIFA, the construction costs of which amount to approx. 3.5 billion $. The tower featuring a height of 88 m and the terminal 1, however, will be newly built.

38 gates for up to 80 million passengers

The trapezoid-shaped main building is attached to the long row of 38 gates. A mirror-imaged second terminal is planned for the second expansion stage, both terminals are to be connected by a shopping mall. Initially, 20 million passengers have been envisaged, in the final expansion up to 80 million. The longer one of the two runways will feature a length of 4.5 km, thus being sufficient even for the largest airliners.

215,000 square meters of building surface in earthquake-prone region

The entire region is highly earthquake-prone. Hence, the terminal with its surface of over 215,000 square meters had to be protected against seismic damages and will therefore be horizontally isolated from the subsoil. In this way, immediate readiness for operation is ensured even after a major earthquake.

One of the world’s largest isolated buildings

In terms of surface, the building is one of the largest isolated buildings worldwide. Due to the importance and the high security classification, three seismic load cases were used to calculate the isolation systems. The maximum credible earthquake (MCE) shows a return period of 2,475 years and a maximum ground acceleration of about 0.613 g.

Generals as building owners

A special attribute of the project is the building owner SEDENA (Secretaría de la Defensa Nacional). The project is controlled by generals from the Ministry of Defence. The President of Mexico, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, made this decision to ensure quickest possible construction independent of economic interests. The requirements of aviation, retail trade and catering trade are surely taken into consideration; however, the military takes the lead.

Time is of the essence

In view of the construction period of just under two and a half years, the project is optimized towards quickest possible progress of construction work and is right on schedule after one and a half year. At present, over 1,000 standardized and consecutively numbered concrete bases are standing in rank and file on the former military airport. They were manufactured with large tolerances for bearing positioning to enable quick assembly. Moreover, recesses were prepared for accommodating the anchoring of the bearings. The concrete surface was deliberately left roughened. After embedding the bearing in concrete, this ensures optimum transfer of the shear forces between bearing and concrete.

The terminal will rest on a total of 1,332 isolators. Due to quantity and time pressure, the building owner ordered the bearings from two suppliers.

MAURER delivered 473 sliding pendulum bearings type SIP-DR for a structural load of 520 t and a horizontal displacement of ± 300 mm. They feature a diameter of 620 mm and a height of 133 mm.

MAURER delivered the bearings by April 2020, all of them were assembled in September. Immediately after completion of the foundation bases with isolators, prefabricated steel constructions will be installed step-by-step.

Isolate, dissipate, recentre, transfer

The SIP bearings fulfil the following tasks:

  • Reduction of the maximum horizontal accelerations by factor 6 to 0.1 g. This is achieved through isolating the building from its foundations. In this way, the building can freely shift horizontally in all directions through the bearings, with a relative movement of up to ± 300 mm.
  • They decelerate horizontal movements by friction and limit them.
  • They recentre the building after an earthquake to its initial centred position.
  • They transfer approx. 151,000 t of vertical loads of the superimposed building.

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Santa Lucía, México, Mexico (2022)

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