Plane at an airport

Airports that work

People profile: Neil Mackenzie

Neil Mackenzie

Neil Mackenzie is Aurecon’s Acoustics & Vibrations Leader.


Over his 20 year career, Neil has worked throughout Australia and Asia on major airport projects including: Hong Kong International Airport’s North Satellite Concourse, Macau International Airport’s heliport, and the award – winning Adelaide International Airport.

Beyond airports, Neil has delivered expert, cost – effective design solutions for major domestic and international infrastructure projects including: Dubai’s Burj Khalifa, the UAE’s Mall of Emirates, the Adelaide Oval Redevelopment and Dunedin’s Forsyth Barr Stadium, and Brisbane’s Supreme & District Courts, to name a few.

How do the different areas of building sciences and services collaborate with the architects, airport operators and planners when designing and constructing an airport?


The building sciences acoustics, vibration, air quality and wind engineering team works across all service groups of Aurecon, from transport and planning; assessing the impact of noise from ground based apron activities through to building structures and services.

We work closely with architects at the concept stage to minimise cost of construction by ensuring consideration has been given to separating spaces with quiet amenity from those that are very noisy.

We also negotiate with planning authorities to demonstrate we will comply with noise and air quality regulations.

If you could give airport operators a piece of advice, what would it be?


Operating costs can be minimised by maximising the operating hours of the airport.

Noise emissions are a key to this, with apron activities in the early hours of the morning an important issue. Ground run-up of aircraft is often carried out using Auxiliary Power Units (APUs) within the tail of the aircraft. Noise emissions from APU’s can easily exceed boundary noise limits depending on the location and orientation of the aircraft relative to the boundary.

An alternative is to use power supplied by the terminal for engine run-up and conditioning of aircraft in the early morning, thus enabling earlier departures.

Similarly, the design of the terminal must involve strategic advice from a building sciences as early as possible. This must be done at concept stage as without this advice the outcome could have significant impacts on the operating efficiency of the airport. For example, flight safety with regards to wind shear and the construction and operating cost of the terminal.

As airport hubs expand and become more integrated into residential, commercial and, in some cases, urban areas, what opportunities and/or challenges will airport planners encounter?


Proactively addressing the challenge of flight paths and their noise effects on homes and businesses near airport sites is a critical planning issue.

In recent years, the Australian Government has spent AUD60 million insulating commercial and residential areas for noise intrusion attributed to aircraft activity and airport sites. My work on the affiliated Adelaide Airport Noise Insulation Programme is an example of future effects of planning conditions that didn’t account for noise emissions - Sydney and Perth Airports provide other examples.

In contrast, Melbourne Airport is well located, with planning conditions in place to limit encroachment by sensitive neighbours, but allow development of commercial and industrial developments that are less sensitive to noise effects on airport land holdings.

Our team in Bangkok have successfully managed the installation of a noise monitoring system used to monitor and report on noise intrusion from aircraft movements over sensitive land use.

Aurecon has provided flight path modelling solutions for our airport clients as well as noise monitoring solutions to assess the effects of noise generated from airside and landside noise activities on local areas.

Read more about the acoustic, vibration, wind, air quality and audio visual engineering design solutions.

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