Planning for Sustainability

FBOs and other aviation service companies are looking to 'go green' as much as they can within the budgets they have

Airports and businesses based at the airport setting have been working hard at ‘going green’ for some time now. Operating and building with sustainability in mind has become an industry mainstay, and with more businesses accepting the need to be environmentally responsible in all aspects of operation, some very good best practices and lessons learned are becoming apparent.

The LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification program was developed by the U.S. Green Building Council and is used by many organizations as a way to benchmark specific goals related to sustainability.

At the Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport (CHA), a LEED Platinum-certified corporate flight center is now online, as well as a Leed Gold-certified hangar facility. The FBO terminal, managed by Wilson Air Center, is the first facility of its kind in the world to receive platinum certification.

Comments airport authority president, Terry Hart, “Over the past 40 years, Chattanooga has transformed itself from one of the most polluted cities in the nation to one of the cleanest.

“As a cornerstone of the community, the Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport Authority (CMAA) shares the city’s vision for sustainability. Five years ago, the airport pledged to reduce its environmental footprint and started small by initiating sustainable practices both on the airfield and within the commercial terminal.

“Over time, the airport has incorporated this green philosophy into larger projects including a solar farm and LEED-designed facilities.”

But going LEED isn’t the only way to go green. Mercer Dye of Dye Aviation Facilities says there’s a two-step method to figuring out whether to go LEED or not. Dye has more than 35 years of experience in the development of commercial and industrial projects, and in the last 30 years he has been concentrated on the development of aviation support facilities.

“Once you have the parameters of the building conceptionalized, you can hire LEED certified engineers, and they will perform an analysis of the project — they will show you where the low-hanging fruit is, and they will show how to become LEED certified, and demonstrate the cost of that,” explains Dye.

“But, becoming LEED certified can be an expensive endeavor, and the paybacks are subject to discussion. A lot of my customers get the front-end work done, and then have a nice list of low-hanging fruit to go after, and will then not worry about the LEED certification.”

Low-Hanging Fruit

Dye Aviation Facilities develops projects on greenfield sites as well as works with renovations and expansions. Some 60-70 percent of Dye’s business is in new construction. “What we do, whether it’s an FBO client or a corporate client, is begin our design work really understanding what the core goals are,” explains Dye.

“There are some companies who are invested in green technology, not for the pure economics of it. Some companies have become committed to building green and they don’t have to demonstrate a return on investment.

“My companies have to demonstrate that return on investment to stockholders. The first thing we do is take advantage of all the low-hanging fruit in the design. There are cheap things to do.

“We use energy-efficient materials; lots of insulation; orient the buildings where they absorb as little heat as possible during certain times of the year — we try to take advantage of every type of passive trick we can use in the basic design of the building.

“And we really address the building envelope — using a lot of insulation and making sure it’s nice and tight.”

The next step is in looking at the various systems — electrical, heating, and lighting, for example. “Lighting is a big component here; we are using more and more intelligent lighting systems in combination with skylights and sidelights in the buildings,” says Dye.


Heating and cooling the facility is also a big energy-user resulting in high operational costs.

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