Eco-Friendly Building, Eco-Friendly GSE

US Airways builds a new green GSE maintenance facility and steps up its electric GSE at PHL


US Airways Inc. opened a new $22 million GSE maintenance facility last month at the Philadelphia International Airport (PHL), the latest move in going green for both the airline and the airport.

The 57,000-square-foot building consolidates separate sites ground support maintenance operations had used to keep the airline’s 700 pieces of motorized equipment and 1,200 pieces of nonmotorized equipment in top shape to handle more than 400 flights a day.

The new facility features 16 vehicle maintenance bays, each equipped with overhead lube racks and vehicle exhaust systems, four overhead cranes that can move through the work space, a two-bay weld shop and nine in-ground lifts – two of which are rated at 150,000 pounds, the first such installation in the United States. If all this weren’t enough, the stockroom delivers needed parts with just the touch of a button.

“Every bay has what it needs, so we are already seeing an improvement in our turnaround time,” says James Brewer, manager of the GSE maintenance facility, which employs 70 mechanics.

The airline also went the extra step in building the facility to LEED standards. Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design is an internationally recognized green building certification process providing third-party certification that a building will save on energy and water use, and is designed to take into account other environmental matters.

“It was a non-choice,” says Allan Seaman, director of corporate real estate for the airline’s construction division, about the decision to build the facility to such high green building standards. Seaman added his company has gone green at other airports as well as for its own corporate purposes.

US Airways’ Phoenix, AZ, headquarters, for example, received LEED Gold status. But that gold star was for renovating an existing building rather than building from scratch. The airline’s GSE maintenance facility is also the first project at PHL to be in the running for LEED status.

To build to such a level of green specification the facility used, for example, recycled construction materials – accounting for almost 40 percent of the total building materials inventory. To cut down on pollution to deliver materials to the job site, about a third of all its construction materials were sourced nearby.

One of the LEED features, designed to cut down on electricity to light the work space, has already helped the technicians make needed repairs. Large windows set well above the floor provide ample natural light – something in short supply at one of the other sites the crew used before moving into the new building.

Before the move, GSE maintenance staff worked out of three sites. One building was the original US Airways’ cargo facility. The building’s lighting wasn’t conducive to working on GSE, says Brewer.

“It was very dark on the late afternoon and midnight shifts,” Brewer adds. “That made it very difficult to see what you were working on without bringing in drop lights, and then there were extension cords running all over the place. Just the lighting alone at the new building is a huge step up.”

The cargo facility had another drawback. Its floors couldn’t handle the largest pushbacks so Brewer’s crew had to take over a percentage of the airline’s hangar space for the heavyweight work. Even then, mechanics could spend an hour setting up mobile lifts before the vehicle left the ground. With the new site, Brewer’s workforce can simply drive into a service bay and make use of the lifts.

“Five minutes later,” Brewer says, “they’re making the repairs. That’s great productivity.”

The GSE maintenance crew also worked out of one more building simply because everyone needed the elbow room. Brewer helped design the new facility’s floor plan and, after being in ground support since 1976, stipulated all he needed to move personnel and equipment through one perfect building.

“We moved in on a Friday,” he adds, “and by the following Tuesday, we were up and running.”

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