The Greener, The Better

Airports show initiative in getting ahead of the environmental sustainability curve

Some of the airport’s target goals include maintaining a deicing fluid collection efficiency of 69 percent, and an increase in alternatively fueled light-duty vehicles to 70 percent.

“Everything we do has a sustainability component to it,” explains Barrilleaux. “It’s not really investing in sustainability projects, it’s looking at how you do business today, and looking at it through a sustainability lens.

“Whenever we embark on a new building project, we look at how we are going to design it, build it, and operate it to minimize the impact on the environment, reduce our costs where we can, and provide social benefit to the surrounding communities.”

DIA has two LEED accredited engineers at the airport who look at all construction plans and evaluate them for building in accordance with LEED Silver criteria, says Barrilleaux.

“Many of our individual specs for electrical and mechanical systems are embedded with technical specifications requirements that are consistent with LEED criteria,” says Barrilleaux.

“I would guess that at least 70 percent of what we do here, with respect to conserving resources and changing the way we do business, costs us nothing and saves us money. Clearly, when you talk about capital investment in equipment or materials, there is a cost; but when you look at the return on investment, in light of rising fuel, electricity, and utility costs, it does cost us money initially with the anticipation that it will save us money in the future.”

To date, DIA has tracked a $1.7 million cost avoidance through on-site deicing fluid recycling; $110,000 in savings for solid waste recycling; and a gasoline and diesel use reduction that saved more than $160,000 in 2008. Initiatives for 2009 include an organics pilot program; testing of a new hydrogen system in gasoline vehicles; and the replacement of gasoline only vehicles with dual gas/electric or gas/compressed natural gas (CNG) hybrids.

DIA continues to develop and implement sustainability programs, including a 7.5-acre solar farm installed last year, and participation in the Global Reporting Initiative and Sustainable Guidelines for Airports program (GRI).

The GRI airports sector supplement development provides an international framework where organizations and businesses can report their performance against specific sustainability targets, says Barrilleaux. “It establishes a baseline, the G3 guidelines. GRI has developed indicators that are specific to airports so we can report what the community needs to know about our sustainability programs,” she says.

“By the end of 2010, we will have helped develop the international indicator parameters that airports across the world can report their sustainability performance against.”

The solar farm consists of more than 9,200 panels that generate more than three million kilowatt hours of electricity per year. Designed and built by WorldWater & Solar Technologies, the solar array expanse cost $13 million, but will reduce the airport’s carbon emissions by as much as five million pounds per year, according to airport officials.

DIA is also involved in the revision of the City of Chicago’s Sustainable Design manual, relates Barrilleaux, and airports will be able to utilize that document as a guide towards their own sustainability initiatives or programs.

“We are interested in sharing our strategies with other businesses; airports have been doing a lot of great things, we just haven’t been promoting them enough,” says Barrilleaux.

“We need to share our story with the community; that’s why we started sending out press releases ... to educate our business partners and the flying community about what we are doing here. Transparency is important, and we need to tell people what we are doing well.”

Massport’s Mission
Like DIA, Boston Logan Inter-national Airport also follows an EMS policy and has developed its own sustainability guidelines, according to Catherine Wetherell, Massport’s deputy director of capital programs and environmental affairs. The airport authority has also worked very closely with Chicago’s O’Hare on its sustainability guidelines.

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