World’s smartest buildings: Jewel at Changi Airport

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Alice Cruickshank

Singapore has long been known for its architectural triumphs, such as the gravity-defying The Interlace development, and the futuristic Helix Bridge. Therefore, it’s unsurprising that Singapore’s airport is one of the most luxurious and technically advanced in the world. Already at the forefront of technology, Changi decided to look to nature for its lastest development.

Jewel Changi Airport is a mixed-used development of restaurants, shops, hotel rooms… and an indoor forest and waterfall. The new space will open in 2019, and has already gathered global attention. In 2016 it won the International Architecture Award by The Chicago Athenaeum for its high standard of design, construction and sustainability.

Construction of Jewel Changi Airport

Exterior Of Jewel Changi Airport

The Jewel development is a partnership between Changi Airport Group and CapitaLand Mall Asia, and the impressive dome-shaped structure was designed by Moshe Safdie of Safdie Architects. The space will link Terminals 1, 2 and 3. The entire building will have a gross floor area of nearly 1.5m sq ft. Currently, 75% of construction is complete.

Over 9,000 pieces of glass and 18,000 steel beams were required to build Jewel Changi’s exterior. A hyrdolic pump was used to lift the 250-300kg glass panes, which were then scanned using a QR code to ensure they were slotted into the correct place – very important as no two panels had the same dimensions.

It took over two years for suitable glass to be tested and selected for the exterior of the Jewel. It would be easy for such a space to develop greenhouse-like qualities, but Triple low-E glass transmits light while reducing excess heat. The smart glass also keeps noise from aircraft to a minimum, thanks to a 16mm air gap. Meanwhile, any potential glare from the glass has been prevented to ensure planes can safely fly overhead.

Merging nature and technology

Jewel Changi Airport's Indoor Waterfall Rain Vortex

Jewel Changi Airport’s impressive indoor waterfall, the Rain Vortex

Jewel Changi’s concept spans from Singapore’s reputation as a “city in a garden”, and the building will feature an indoor nature park and water features.

The Jewel’s Rain Vortex is set to be its landmark attraction. At 40 metres high, it is thought to be the world’s tallest indoor waterfall, with up to 10,000 gallons of rainwater from the structure’s roof flowing through a minute. The impressive water feature was created by WET, the company behind the Bellagio fountains in Vegas and The Dubai fountain. Rotating lighter and heavier water flows will prevent the waterfall from impacting on humidity inside the Jewel.

The Forest Valley is a five-story garden and one of the largest indoor plant collections in Singapore, covering 236,806 sq ft of space filled with thousands of trees and plants.

On the top level of the Jewel is a canopy park, which features a botanical garden, a glass bottomed canopy bridge and sky nets, and mist-emitting pumps to give the impression of playing in the clouds.

Industry-leading innovation

Jewel Changi Airport Sky Nets

Jewel Changi Airport’s sky nets allow visitors to explore the gardens from above

The Jewel is an exciting development, showcasing prime examples of how engineering and the latest technology can bring the outdoors indoors.

As retailers and commercial space owners are increasingly realising that experiences are as valuable as products, Jewel Changi is a prime example of how innovation can make an airport retail space a destination in its own right, rather than somewhere travellers merely pass through.

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