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Looking to the sky: Turkey starts construction of world's largest airport

Istanbul New Airport is an undeniably impressive project. Once finished, it is planned to be the largest airport on the planet, helping to ease the huge congestion in Istanbul caused by the city's growing popularity as a tourist destination. With construction of the hub now underway, we take a look at the history and scale of this huge development, how the completed airport will look, and the opportunities it presents to the building materials industry.

Background: Why Istanbul needs a new airport

With its population of more than 14 million people, Istanbul is one of the 15 largest cities in the world - already a factor significant enough to place serious strain on its international transport infrastructure. This pressure is further heightened by the city's appeal among tourists, with 11.82 million of them visiting in 2014.

In all, the number of passengers travelling to Istanbul in 2013 stood at 70 million - almost half the country's total passenger traffic. All of which means Istanbul is one of the most productive hubs in a wide-spread geographic region covering Europe, the Middle East and North Africa.

The city's two existing airports - Ataturk on the European side and Sabiha Gokcen on the Asian side - simply don't possess the capacity to cope with this growing demand at present. What's more, Ataturk lacks the physical space to house an extra runway. 

The capacity crunch has become so severe that airlines wishing to start new routes to or from Ataturk are unable to do so.

The benefits of Istanbul New Airport

With a capacity of 150 million passengers per year, Istanbul New Airport will allow the city to cope with air traffic demand for decades to come. Furthermore, its wide flight network - the airport is planned to offer flights to more than 350 destinations - will make it one of the world's leading aviation hubs.

More than just a transport hub, the airport represents a major investment towards the future of Turkey. Over a 25-year period, Istanbul New Airport is expected to contribute €22.2 billion ($24.5 billion) plus VAT to the state. 

It will also have a massive impact on employment: estimates suggest 100,000 people will be directly employed through the construction and operation of the airport, while some 1.5 million jobs will be created through related sub-sectors.

The scale of the opportunity for building materials suppliers

With those figures in mind, construction of the airport makes clear sense. But it isn't just the Turkish people and government that stand to benefit from this major project; it will also create substantial opportunities for building materials suppliers.

When finished, the airport will take up a 76.5 million sqm plot between the existing villages of Tayakadin and Akpinar, near the Black Sea on Istanbul's European side. It will be located about 35 km from Ataturk Airport. Should it be delivered to plan, the airport will be the largest in the world when it opens in early 2018. 

Unsurprisingly given its sheer the scale, it will also be packed full of facilities to cater to the millions of passengers who will pass through its doors every day. 

For instance, its duty free shopping area will also be the world's largest. Set to occupy a site measuring 53,000 sqm, this sprawling shopping centre will be home to more than 400 domestic and international luxury brands, all under a single roof. The duty free area also promises to be a visual treat, combining contemporary elements with a more traditional aesthetic that seeks to invoke the true spirit of Istanbul.

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