Plan Green; Build Clean

O’Hare International leads the way in environmental sustainabilty at airports


CHICAGO — Well into phase one of the O’Hare Modernization Program (OMP), executive director Rosemarie Andolino’s “megaproject of national significance” has taken the environment into account on every aspect of the project’s construction, she says. From the conception of O’Hare’s Sustainable Design Manual to efficient construction practices and vegetated “green” roofs, the O’Hare strategy is that any area of construction where sustainabilty is not considered is an opportunity lost.

The OMP can easily be described as one of the largest construction projects in the country at one of the world’s busiest airports. Charged with reconfiguring the airport’s outdated intersecting runway system, the estimated $8 billion OMP broke ground in September of 2005, and has made considerable progress since.

For example, a 3000-foot extension to runway 10/28 was completed in September, 56 days ahead of schedule and $33 million under budget.

On November 20, federal officials and civic leaders commissioned a new air traffic control tower and the first new runway built at O’Hare in 37 years. The $457 million runway and tower project opened on schedule and $6 million under budget.

“Each element is something an airport would do over a period of a decade; we did it all in three years,” relates Andolino.

Progress thus far has been accomplished while also maintaining the OMP’s committment to sustainability.

From the onset of the program, the OMP has developed and implemented environmentally sustainable initiatives that are at the forefront of the aviation industry. Beginning with the OMP Sustainable Design Manual (SDM), created in 2003, the OMP has applied sustainabilty to all design projects and construction practices, from traditional applications for occupied buildings to civil projects such as roads, utilities, and drainage.

Sustainable construction practices are tracked to ensure compliance with the SDM, contracts, and specifications in the areas of Diesel Vehicle Emissions Control, Construction Waste Management, Regional Materials, and Recycled Materials.

The OMP Sustainable Design Manual was based on the Chicago Standard and the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) green building rating system. The manual contains comprehesive green design and construction standards and was included in contracts and distributed to all designers working on the project.

“The requirement of the request for proposal (RFP) was that all contractors had to recognize and understand our sustainable efforts that would be included in all elements of design, and they had to have LEED accredited professionals on board as well,” says Andolino.

The manual ensures sustainabilty from start to finish, relates Andolino.

“Not only did we develop the manual to give us the framework and the guidelines to build this megaproject with sustainability at the forefront, but we were also able to develop a measurement system so that we can evaluate the results of those guidelines,” says Andolino

“We’ve been able to really think of this from a holistic approach; from start to finish, not piecemeal.”

Guidelines and Incentives
Similar to LEED, the OMP Sustainable Design Manual includes a project ranking and evaluation process that issues “Green Airplane Certification” awards to design teams for sustainability achievements as well as recognition for efforts in sustainable construction practices.

Because LEED does not address heavy civil projects, Andolino relates that the OMP team had no choice but to develop it’s own sustainability guidelines; a first for the industry.

Andolino says that she was very familiar with LEED when she came on to the OMP because she had worked in development, in terms of building, for the City of Chicago.

“I was astounded by the fact that there was nothing, no environmentally sustainable guidelines at all for a heavy civil project such as the OMP,” says Andolino.

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