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(c) Zhonghang Zhucheng; (c) Zhonghang Zhucheng;

Lhasa Gonggar Airport Terminal 3, Lhasa

Engineering at the top of the world

Sitting at 3,600m altitude, Lhasa Gonggar Airport is one of the highest altitude airports in the world, serving as the largest and most important aviation hub in Tibet Autonomous Region.

Arup provided full stage structural, mechanical, electrical and public health engineering (SMEP) design for the newly built Terminal 3, and technical review for the ancillary buildings.

Terminal 3 is part of the overall reconstruction and extension of the 4E level airport, which became operational in 1965. With a floor area of 88,000m², the new terminal adds 21 extra gates for boarding and deplaning, enabling the airport to serve 9 million passengers per year by 2025.

Project Summary

3,600m altitude


9millionannual passenger capacity

Lotus-shaped roof

The design of Terminal 3 pays homage to Tibet culture and ethnic identity. To realise the complex lotus-shaped steel roof, we extensively used computational design technologies to determine the most efficient spatial truss configuration and delivered a construction friendly design.

We developed an innovative dual directional spherical bearing connection to reduce the member dimensions of the tree columns under the high temperature variation of Lhasa, retaining the architectural intent of a light and elegant roof.

Bird eye view of Lhasa Gonggar Airport Terminal 3 ©中建八局 Bird eye view of Lhasa Gonggar Airport Terminal 3 ©中建八局

Smart design tools

We adopted our in-house developed smart design tools for parametric modelling, automated optimisation and BIM approaches to reduce steel tonnage and facilitate construction while ensuring torsional rigidity and resistance during an earthquake.

Facilitating construction

The location of Lhasa presents formidable challenges in the construction. During the design stage, we fully considered the availability of local materials and construction feasibility of the complex steel roof as well as special conditions due to the high altitude, such as sun radiation and large daily temperature variation.

Considering the remote and high-altitude project site, we put forward detailed specifications to locally source concrete aggregates, and made careful calculations of concrete shrinkage and creep of the long structure under the severe temperature variation in the plateau.

Integrated sustainable design

In order to achieve energy efficiency, we designed a lighting system that makes full use of the high-altitude natural sunlight in the highland of Lhasa, also known as ‘Sunlight City’.

Our design makes use of the outdoor fresh air in summer, supplemented by the air-conditioning system, to minimise the use of chillers and water pumps while achieving indoor comfort.

Our integrated SMEP design approach has tackled many challenges in a creative and cost-effective way. For example, considering the snowfall load on the roof in winter, a gutter de-icing system is designed in the roof gutter for easy removal of the snow during extreme weather conditions.