FOR THOSE WHO TRAVEL REGULARLY from Dubai it’s hard to escape the different experiences on offer at the various terminals of the international airport. If you fly Emirates from the gleaming T3 or the newly opened A380 terminal, the clean, modern surroundings make traveling a pleasure. The other two terminals have never quite matched those sumptuous surroundings and feel like they are part of a very different airport, but all that is changing.
The first part of this process has seen Terminal 2 get a much needed upgrade. This is home to many of the budget airlines that offer short flights around the region, such as its main carrier flydubai. In the past, this small terminal has offered a very different passenger experience to T3. However, a multi-phase project scheduled for completion in 2014 is bringing it in line with the flagship building.
The first phase of this project is now complete, and the difference it has made is astonishing. Now passengers are greeted by a large, airy departure hall very much in the style of T3. The enlarged departures and immigration areas are in a brand new building which has been designed to cope with 10 million passengers a year.
A key component of this first phase has been the creation and installation of a new public address, voice alarm and automated announcement system. Taking responsibility for installing this new system is Dubai-based systems integrator, Oasis Enterprises Professional Projects Division. ‘This is the fifth airport we have done in the UAE,’ smiles Oasis business development manager, Jamal Al Ashby. ‘We have the trust from the clients and great experience with airport installations.’
Key to the success Oasis has had with airport projects has been its relationship with Italian company RCF – all five projects have featured products and support from the manufacturer. ‘We have the opportunity to put in the first completely digital announcement system from RCF. It is very advanced,’ says Mr Al Ashby. ‘We put in the new
digital announcement system, the digital public address system. This airport also has its own selection of music for the VIP lounge and separate music controls for duty free. It’s been added to make the passengers feel more comfortable.’
The system itself was designed and built by RCF at its headquarters in Reggio Emilia prior to being shipped out to Dubai for installation. ‘It is quite a complex system, the terminal is not huge in itself, but the customer was quite demanding. In particular, what they asked for was a completely redundant system, and that’s something that is not always available out of the box,’ smiles Daniele Torelli, from RCF’s Engineering Support Group department. ‘We did a hybrid design. The main system was the DXT 7000 that controls 24 zones, not all are in use but there is room for expansion. In this case the DXT doesn’t use its internal amplifiers, we shipped seven racks of amplifiers in total because the power needed was much more than the power provided by the internal racks.’
To cope with the demands of redundancy there are two identical DXT 7000 systems with a master switch for the changeover. ‘We comply completely to the National Fire Protection standards. NFPA requires us to have full redundancy for the airport,’ explains Mr Al Ashby. ‘The airport will never stop, even if there is a failure in the first system, the redundancy will take over. There is also a third fallback system.’
The solution handles announcements from paging consoles as well as gate calls and integrates with the automatic announcement system – another interesting application of new technology. ‘This is the second time in the UAE we have used Aviavox, which uses digital speech fragments as an intelligent artificial voice,’ says Mr Al Ashby. ‘Aviavox is a new technology which a few airports around the world have adopted. It is based on digital speech fragments known as phonemes. You record the phonemes once and anything you want to add will be automatically created through the system, you don’t have to find the same person and record their voice again.’
The large number of inputs from all the consoles, gates and other systems created a further challenge for the system design. RCF had to integrate the DXT 7000 with some other EN 54 products such as the PR 5006 preamplifier with priority.
It combined the DXT 7000 with the preamplifier which handles all the comments from the fire station because there are a lot of channels and a lot of subdivisions in the zones. There are the zones required by the customer, but also the zones required by the fire alarm. They are macro zones that grew apart from the others. From the designing and wiring point of view, it was quite a challenge.
Compliance with fire regulations was the key in this phase of the project. It prescribed the type and number of speakers used – more than nine hundred fireproof ceiling speakers, some installed with a custom bracket hanging from the ceiling. Oc course, the regulations also demand a high level of intelligibility and this required a large amount of planning and simulation using EASE.
According to RCF, the system was simulated and this showed the intelligibility level was quite good, especially when you consider the structure is mainly glass walls and the marble floor is also very reflective, it’s not a great acoustic material. It needed some very detailed simulations, so RCF used its dedicated server for that – it required several days of CPU time for the ray tracing. RCF had to confirm it would be able to provide a certain intelligibility and then match it in the field, given all the differences in real life materials.
Oasis did some measurements and it was satisfied, then RCF went to the site and did some filter configuration and in the end the consultant was very satisfied with the intelligibility, states the manufacturer. RCF did some equalization, but having the DSP inside the DXT 7000 meant it just needed to change some settings to adapt them to the speakers and the characteristics of the place as there is a high reverberation time here.
’Of course it has to be acoustically very friendly even though the airport is full of metallic ceilings and ducting – it is an industrial architect’s look for an airport,’ adds Mr. Al Ashby. ’This made it acoustically challenging, which is why we built a digital public address system. This helped the system to handle this kind of challenge. They have been restricted to follow the NFPA standards in terms of how many speakers and how we divide them and how we make everything audible have a good intelligibility.’
With Phase 1 of the project complete, the teams from Oasis and RCF are moving on to the next two stages. ’Phase 1 was the easy part,’ smiles Mr. Al Ashby. ’Phase 2 and Phase 3 will be more of a challenge because we have to build and replace the old system with a new one. We are installing this technology within existing buildings and moving step-by-step towards migrating the old system to the new one.
’Construction-wise there will be renovations in the building and we will go very carefully behind them,’ continues Mr. Al Ashby. ’It’s a really big challenge. That is why the project has been divided into three phases.’
While the project will continue for the coming months, the results of the first phase prove it is a worthwhile exercise. The departure and immigration areas are comfortable with audible announcements and provide an impressive sigh of what can be expected from the rest of the project. The passenger experience at Terminal 2 is certainly improving.