Interview Hilde Eijkelkamp: Renovation Lounge 1: a major logistical challenge

The design process for the new Departure Lounge 1 is now in full swing. But there is so much more to a redevelopment project on this scale. Hilde Eijkelkamp of the Amsterdam Airport Schiphol Project Office (PLUS) has been immersed in the practical side of things for months.

And that, as Hilde explains, is the greatest challenge of all. ‘Building while the store is open, so to speak, means you can’t do everything at once. It all has to be done step by step, keeping everybody happy along the way. This creates a life-sized puzzle that needs to be solved, our priority being that passenger provisions in the departure lounge remain at the same high level.’ Another concern is making sure that the ‘flow’ is not interrupted: throughout the renovation, travellers must be able to walk from the terminal to the piers unhindered. ‘The walking space is subject to minimum width requirements, so we have to look carefully at where we can place hoardings.’

Extra space

Schiphol also tries to ensure that the income of the departure hall’s retailers is not negatively impacted. Many of the stores in Departure Lounge 1 will therefore stay open during the renovation, even if it means creating a temporary store. ‘One advantage is the space that has been freed up by relocating the KLM crew centre,’ Hilde reveals. ‘It means that many of the stores and restaurants can first be moved to a new location, enabling existing locations to be refurbished for new entrepreneurs.’

Comic strip

These preconditions make renovating Departure Lounge 1 a major logistical challenge. As a Junior Project Manager at PLUS, Hilde is therefore constantly involved in phasing discussions with all kinds of stakeholders. ‘These conversations generate the input for a kind of comic strip: a story board I put together illustrating what needs to happen when and in what order,’ Hilde says. ‘This enables non-engineers to grasp the full implications of the technical drawings.’

Safety first

These drawings are continuously adapted in response to everyone’s wishes, based on Hilde’s consultations with the people involved. ‘And if we have a contractor coming in to carry out the project, they will review it again. To make sure the plans are feasible and see whether there might be a more efficient way to tackle things.’ But that’s not all: the entire renovation also has to be carried out safely. This means that work entailing greater risks or substantial inconvenience is mainly planned at night, when there are fewer travellers around. To accommodate the summer peak, construction comes to a complete standstill. The influx of holidaymakers makes it too busy to proceed.

Security for all

Large deliveries of building materials also take place overnight. ‘All of those big trucks need somewhere to park and their load has to be brought inside,’ Hilde explains. ‘This can be done through the front or the back of the departure hall.’ No matter what the route, all materials have to pass through security, because the renovation is taking place airside: in other words, behind airport security.

For now, Hilde cannot say exactly when the major renovation work will get underway. ‘The design phase has yet to be completed and that will be followed by the tendering process.’ Once all that is done and dusted, the renovation itself is expected to take a few more years. So please be patient.