Bodø: A Blueprint for the Airport of the Future?

The city of Bodø in the north of Norway is undergoing significant changes as a new city quarter and a new airport are being built in tandem. A unique opportunity to observe how modern airport design goes hand in hand with urban planning – and how the airport builders prepare for the future.

You can tell the enthusiasm in Håvard Breivik’s voice when he talks about the New City – New Airport project in the Norwegian city of Bodø. After all, you don’t often get the opportunity to build a modern airport from scratch. And certainly not in close cooperation with urban planners who plan a whole new city quarter! But this is precisely what Beivik’s role is as the Safety and Quality Manger Bodø Airport at Avinor.

“There’s so much going on”, reports Breivik on a positive note. “Just now, I came from a meeting with a local hospital – we are looking for ways to make transit easier for patients who can’t walk.” In northern Norway, patients often need to take a small plane to Bodø where they board a larger plane to go to a medical center for treatment.

Breivik and team are working together with the hospitals to come up with innovative solutions. Should there be special elevators? Are there vehicles on the market that would help? How does this fit in with the blueprint? “It’s just a small thing, but we think it’s important”, Breivik says humbly about his talks with the hospital. But humble or not, the New City – New Airport project has gained quite a bit of international attention.

Moving an Airport, Building a New City

The story begins with the decision by the Norwegian government to decommission the Bodø military airport within the next few years. This potentially meant a massive loss of jobs for the region. But people also started wondering how this could be turned into an opportunity.

When change hits hard and suddenly, things start moving.

When change hits hard and suddenly, things start moving. Whether it’s towards something new and unique is, in a sense, the collective decision of those affected. The New City – New Airport project is an example of how change can be turned into something that urban planners all over the world are talking about.

The idea that emerged – and that studies showed to be feasible – is this: let’s move the airport old civilian airport to the site of the former military facilities and build a “new Bodø” city district where the old airport had been. The existing civil and military facilities could form the basis for an unparalleled urban project. At the same time, building a new airport from scratch would allow to boldly innovate at the cutting edge in terms of technology, sustainability and urban integration.

The project’s scope is ambitious. The Bodø 2030 plan seeks to answer the big questions of urban planning, such as: How does a city look like in 2065? What kind of technology is used in a future city? How are future buildings formed? What kind of energy sources are used in future cities? In building a new, future-proof city from scratch, we might get some concrete answers.

But everything starts with the new airport.

Exploring the Airport of the Future

“We need to complete the new airport first before the new city can be built”, Håvard Breivik explains. At the same time, the new airport is a trailblazer when it comes to infrastructure, logistics, and new ideas. “From energy issues to sustainability, the municipality of Bodø is watching closely what we’re doing and we are exchanging ideas and learnings in regular meetings.  The collaboration with the municipality and the Norwegian army has so far proven to be very fruitful and enriching.”

Futuristic features of the new airport

  • Remote Air Traffic Control not located in a traditional tower, but at the old airport site
  • Autonomous vehicles for snow removal
  • Automated passenger logistics
  • Remote surveillance of technical facilities and security-controlled areas
  • Potentially heated runways
  • New technologies that increase efficiency while decreasing environmental impact while reducing capital investment needs

Håvard Breivik and team are going for innovation, but also tried and tested solutions. They are looking everywhere to learn about possible improvements, especially when it comes to sustainability.

“Right now, we’re looking into heated runways”, he says, “because not only would they increase efficiency and decrease downtimes, but also reduce the need for de-icing chemicals that have a negative impact on the environment.”

Planning a new airport also means dealing with uncertainty. The planners need to consider and evaluate future trends. This may be part of the reason the project got so much attention. Håvard Breivik gives the example of electric airplanes: “We have to design the airport without knowing how far the electrification process will be.” To tackle these issues, he works together with the airlines to get a better understanding of their plans and how they see the immediate future. From baggage handling to unmanned vehicles – for the airport planner, the future is already here. And working together with various parties is an essential part of the process.

It is human needs and desires that drive societal development, not economical or technological issues.

The strong focus on participation – the constant exchange between the various stakeholders – is a key element of the whole project. The mayor of Bodø, Ida Maria Pinnerød, summarizes the approach: “It is human needs and desires that drive societal development, not economical or technological issues.” To that end, the New City – New Airport group is talking to inhabitants, investors, entrepreneurs and the owners and operators of shops, restaurants and hotels.

After all, the new airport is just the beginning. Once it will be completed in 2024-2026, the municipality can begin with the construction of the new city. It will be driven by new ideas, new levels of sustainability and the input from many different people.

It is this idea of participation that drives Håvard Breivik’s efforts, such as his talks to the hospitals. What kind of solution will come out of it? The answer still lies in the future. But Breivik is optimistic: “The collaboration with all the relevant stakeholders and the line management is working really well, which is a necessity for finding good solutions for the future.”




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