Plan Green; Build Clean

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


She stressed the need for guidelines by referring to the 80/20 rule as it applies to airport construction. “Everyone looks to LEED when constructing new buildings or terminals; but your only building those new facilities about 20 percent of the time,” says Andolino. “More often, you’re maintaining and resurfacing, rehabbing, and rebuilding infrastructure; and yet nobody is applying green principles in terms of infrastructure development.”

Andolino went to the USGBC for help with developing guidelines for heavy civil design projects before a shovel was put in the ground at O’Hare. Because the council was busy working on LEED standards and practices for hospitals and schools, Andolino decided the OMP would create it’s own guidelines, and those guidelines could be used as a model for “green” airport construction across the country.

“We used LEED as a framework for our Sustainable Design Manual because LEED is looked at as an industry leader in sustainability, and we wanted to have a good role model,” says Andolino.

She also relates that while LEED may not address all airport construction appropriately, “it was a great starting point.”

The manual divides airport construction into four areas: civil airside (includes FAA oversight), civil landside (non-aviation affected roadways), occupied buildings (control tower, cargo buildings, etc.), and unoccupied buildings (equipment housing).

While LEED focuses mainly on making the workplace or home more environmentally friendly for the facility’s inhabitants, when developing guidelines for airport construction Andolino’s stratagy was simple: “Whether it’s a road, a runway, or a building; how do we do it in a green or sustainable manner? Any area of construction where sustainability is not considered is an opportunity lost. And that’s what our manual addresses,” says Andolino.

Regarding government funding for green initiatives at airports, Andolino relates that there is none.

“I think the government has to think differently and has to put in place a program that does provide airports an incentive to implementing green initiatives,” she says.

“We need to make green construction planning common practice by providing grants, start-up money, or matching funds for projects like ours to encourage sustainable building practices. We would like to help develop incentives to encourage other airports to do the same.”

Last year, O’Hare, in partnership with the American Association of Airport Executives (AAAE), held a “green” conference which outlined its SDM and presented examples of sustainable construction practices at O’Hare.

A new version of the SDM is in the works and expected to be completed for use in 2009. Andolino relates that the OMP’s design manual must evolve with the times. Lessons learned and new technologies have to be integrated into the manual and updated on a regular basis.

Green roof technology
O’Hare International Airport (ORD) now has over 33,000 square feet of green roof space. “Green” roofs are simply vegetated ceilings, much like a typical roof for any building or facility, except that plant matter is allowed to grow on the roof, offering several practical and environmental benefits. The construction of a green roof is more costly, but the long-term benefit is well worth it, Andolino explains.

The idea to realize green roofs at O’Hare came from Andolino’s experience in the department of planning and development for Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, who has advocated the construction of vegetated roofs and environmentally sustainable buildings throughout the city.

Green roofs have three major benefits with regard to environmental sustainability. Vegetated roofs reduce stormwater runoff, reduce the urban heat island effect, and reduce building energy requirements.

Additionally, the vegetated environment provides a greater lifecycle for the roof of 40-50 years. Most conventional roofs have a guaranteed lifecycle of only 20 years. Green roofs last longer because the vegetation helps provide a barrier against the elements and reduces the deterioration of the roof structure.

There are currently three facilities on the airport which are topped with a green roof, and there are more to come, explains Andolino.

The new Mount Prospect Road guard post has 6,000 sqare feet of green roof, the lighting control vault has 18,000 square feet, and the new North Control Tower has 10,000 square feet.

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