T5 may be one of the biggest schemes of the year here, but this year’s architectural Olympics will be won by Beijing

The date for the big architectural event of 2008 will be opening of Heathrow Terminal 5 on 4 March. “Big” here is best taken literally, as T5 is a gargantuan Airbus of a terminal that rises to five storeys high, spreads over 1.1 million m2 of floor area and cost a cool £4.3bn to build.

This will make it aviation’s answer to the recently completed international railway terminal at St Pancras. But will the design by Rogers Stirk Harbour & Partners win this year’s Stirling Prize, as did the two exhilaratingly sculptural Barajas terminals at Madrid by the same architect in 2006? Don’t bet on it.

On the international scene, this year’s architectural Olympics will be won by Beijing for its dazzling array of buildings developed for the sports Olympics 2008. Beyond the bird’s nest stadium by Herzog & de Meuron of Switzerland and the bubble-wrapped aquatics centre by PTW Architects of Australia, the Beijing Olympics have also spawned a gigantic railway terminal by Foster + Partners and hollow-cored CCTV Centre by Rem Koolhaas. Structural support in all these case is provided by Arup.

The other international sporting event eagerly entered by architects and engineers is the high jump. In oil-rich Dubai, Burj Dubai will win this year’s first prize as the world’s tallest building at a height of 818m.

Elsewhere, such record-breaking ambitions might well be thwarted by this year’s credit crunch that is already causing serious cracks in the property development world. Will either Santiago Calatrava’s Chicago Spire and Renzo Piano’s Shard of Glass in London go ahead to become the tallest towers in the US and Europe respectively? Don’t bet on these either.

The credit crunch also hits housebuilding. So how much expense and energy will housebuilders put into carbon-free low-energy housing innovations, despite the government’s edict that all new housing must be carbon neutral by 2016?

Will housebuilders bite the bullet, or will the government loosen the thumbscrew it is putting on them? While Gordon Brown is flirting with nuclear power as a sustainable, carbon-free energy source, one option you can safely dismiss is a mini nuclear reactor in each housing development.

In the UK, that pretty much leaves public-sector schools as the new buildings to look out for. Foster + Partners, Rogers Stirk Harbour & Partners, Studio E and Wilkinson Eyre Architects have all made pretty splashes with their city academies over the last five years.

Now it’s up to local authorities and building contractors to mobilise to their school design skills for the government’s Building Schools for the Future programme.

Wherever the credit crunch will strike next, the Treasury has ring-fenced a school building budget of £8.315bn this year and rising by another £250m, £500m and £1100m in successive years until 20010/11. So look out for all those fresh-faced architects skipping off happily to school next year