The airport that can’t turn off the lights

Berlin's new airport has been designed as a showpiece for sophisticated German engineering, but there’s one small hitch: no-one can turn off the lights.

The luminaires at the massive Willy Brandt Airport are illuminated 24-hours a day because the contractors building the US$5.6 billion (€4.3 billion) project can’t turn them off.

‘It has to do with the fact that we haven't progressed far enough with our lighting system that we can control it,’ Horst Amann, the airport's technical director, told the German magazine Der Spiegel.

Lighting experts say issues like this shouldn’t occur on large projects. ‘Better planning of the integration of the control system would have prevented a cock-up like this,’ says Simon Barnett of Light on Line. ‘Let’s ensure that lessons are learnt for the future so that this calamity doesn’t occur again.’

The airport has been under construction since 2005 and has experienced delays and technical problems, prompting scorn in the German media. Now project managers are declining to give a date for its completion.

‘I will only name a date when I can take responsibility for it,’ said Amann.

When it opens, the airport is expected to handle up to 27 million passengers a year.