A Model for Sustainability

O’Hare’s megaproject offers lessons in sustainable design; environmental practices

CHICAGO — Hosted by the American Association of Airport Executives (AAAE) and the Chicago Department of Aviation (DOA), the Airports Going Green Conference held here in August attracted nearly 300 attendees and exhibitors. The event offered lessons learned and best practices to airport professionals on implementing sustainable design measures and practices into civil construction projects at airports. The three-day conference kicked off with the unveiling of the new Sustainable Airport Manual (SAM), a comprehensive guide for incorporating environmentally sustainable measures into airport development planning and operation.

O’Hare International Airport (ORD) has taken a leadership role in bringing sustainable design practices to the airport setting; at O’Hare, sustainability has become common-place. From the onset of the program, all contractors associated with the O’Hare Modernization Program (OMP) have been given a sustainable design manual and been required to have LEED-accredited professionals on their teams.

LEED — Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design — is an internationally recognized green building certification system developed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), which provides third-party verification that a building or community was designed and built using environmentally sustainable strategies. All of the projects at O’Hare were designed utilizing the OMP’s Sustainable Design Manual (SDM), which has been improved upon and is now referred to as the Sustainable Airport Manual (SAM).

Says Ricondo & Associates director Gene Peters, “The SDM really did serve us well.

“We’ve implemented the [SDM] in 50 different projects across the airport. That has served us well in getting approval for environmental impact statements and the process for building the modernization program.”

The first version of the manual was introduced in 2003 and has come to be viewed as the international model for airport sustainability, according to the Chicago Department of Aviation (DOA).

Peters says the SDM was the first in many ways: the first airport sustainability guidance manual; the first to develop a rating system for evaluating projects; the first to create a green airplane certificate award system; and the first to recognize designers and contractors for sustainable accomplishments.

The updated version, the SAM, was unveiled at the Airports Going Green Conference and its purpose is to further integrate airport-specific sustainable planning and practice into the everyday functions of an airport.

Representatives from major airports worldwide contributed to the sustainable manual which expands upon sustainable airport practices with specific case studies, lessons learned, new technologies, and best practices. In collaboration with Chicago’s DOA, major airports including Paris-Charles de Gaulle, San Francisco, Seattle-Tacoma, Dallas-Fort Worth, Denver, Boston Logan, and others assisted in the development of the SAM by sharing expertise in LEED-certified terminal construction, wind energy technology, green airport vehicles, recycling efforts, and solar power installations, according to the aviation department.

Industry expertise from some 160 individual contributors including city departments, FAA, and the EPA was also included in the SAM, says Peters.

“This is a living document and it will continue to evolve,” says Peters. “This industry is changing very fast, and the technologies themselves are changing.”

Case Study: ATC Tower
The OMP’s Khaled Naja notes that the North Air Traffic Control Tower was a unique project because it is all-encompassing. “It has the green initiative aspect; it has FAA’s critical mission aspect; and the building itself is very unique in its shape and structure,” says Naja.

The reason the ATC project was needed, relates Naja, is because both ends of the newly commissioned Runway 9L/27R could not be seen by the existing tower at O’Hare. The total cost of the tower was some $63.5 million; AECOM was hired for the design phase and the project contractor was Walsh Construction Company.

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