DHL Hub, East Midlands Airport

We were appointed by DHL to provide engineering design services for the new Sortation Hub at East Midlands Airport, DHL’s largest UK site. To inform the design process we undertook a 3d laser scan survey to establish the existing structural grid along both old and new parts of the building, as well as survey the entire conveyor and handling systems over 2 levels of the 0.5km long building; an area of over 100,000m2.

Key details

Project name
DHL Hub, East Midlands Airport

East Midlands Airport/DHL

East Midlands Airport, UK

Services provided

  • Architecture
  • Civil engineering
  • Structural engineering
  • Laser scanned measured building survey


DHL wanted early contractor involvement and following an early tender process the project was awarded to French contractor GSE Ltd.

With early construction activity, much of the detailed design was required quickly to input into the construction and overall delivery programme. It quickly became apparent that the concept architect was struggling to deliver the detailed design and the project delivery programme was in jeopardy. In response DHL & GSE resolved to introduce RPS as ‘delivery architects’ to deliver the detailed design to an agreed programme and schedule of deliverables, to the agreed high standard expected by DHL as illustrated in the Planning Design Statement and borne out by the approval conditions.

Heavy vibrations caused by the existing conveyor system in use at the time of the survey would have made traditional surveying methods useless. Our team therefore used laser scanning to measure the detail required in as short a site time as possible, and to avoid disruption to site operations.

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The use of a 3D laser scanner enabled rapid capture of the detail required, producing a point cloud data set size in excess of 1TB.  The in-build compensators within the scanning equipment proved vital, showing it could cope with these challenging conditions. 

Our architectural team took the initiative and developed two strands of project development. The first strand was to work closely with the contractor’s supply chain to develop detailed specifications, and drawing packages to allow sub-contractor teams to undertake detailed costings and update procurement and delivery programmes, in line with GSE’s full programme and construction plan.

The second strand was to engage the client’s stakeholders, thereby developing a phased detailed design and delivery plan for subsequent tender packages for the remainder of the construction stage. This collaborative approach ensured that the inherited delay was mitigated, with client sign off and detailed design complete and tendered, moving into construction phase when site progress was ready for the next package.

This two-stage approach enabled DHL to commence their own internal fit-out works much sooner than anticipated (including the bespoke staff restaurant fit-out and call centre furniture to be installed) all prior to the agreed revised handover date.

The introduction of RPS several months into the construction phase and our proactive two staged approach, helped GSE recover approximately four months of the programme and achieve the original completion date, whilst also taking on board a number of significant design changes and value engineering exercises.

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