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Architect: Beijing airport damage not design flaw

November 24, 2011
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BEIJING—One of the architects behind the busiest airport in Asia said Thursday that substandard materials or installation -- not design flaws -- are likely to blame for wind blowing parts of the roof off Beijing's three-year-old Terminal 3.

The airport is the result of a frenetic Chinese building boom that has produced numerous architectural marvels, though some of the iconic new projects have been hit by quality and safety problems.

State media say passengers reported seeing bits of white and yellow roofing material blowing across runways and through parts of the $2.8 billion terminal on Tuesday. In statements issued earlier this week, the airport said no one was hurt and operations were not affected.

It was the second time in a year that wind damaged the airport.

The Beijing airport handled nearly 74 million passengers in 2010, making it the second-busiest in the world after Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport with 89 million passengers, according to Airports Council International.

"If the products provided by the suppliers were not up to their highest standards, or if the individual items were not installed properly, then this kind of thing could happen," said Shao Weiping, an architect with one of the firms that collaborated on the structure, the Beijing Architectural Design and Research Institute.

Shao said he was "very confident that the design was perfect and involved no mistakes or flaws."

Terminal 3 was one of several high-profile projects commissioned by the Chinese government in preparation for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. The building was designed by Britain's Norman Foster. The Hong Kong office of Foster & Partners didn't immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.

A man with the airport's press office refused to comment on the incident or give his name, and referred to the airport's earlier statements.

China's multi-trillion dollar building boom has produced high-speed trains, smooth new superhighways, cruise terminals and airports. But many of the projects, built quickly to meet deadlines that often appear geared toward political grandstanding, have suffered quality and safety problems.

Two bullet trains crashed on July 23, killing 40 people and injuring 177. In 2009, a blaze at the Beijing construction site of the new headquarters for CCTV, China's main television network, gutted a luxury hotel and killed a fireman.

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