Drive Down Energy Costs, Maximize Efficiency

Airports are making an impact on energy bills and achieving favorable returns on investment by improving building system capabilities and performance


Airport operators have a lot on their plates these days, including finding ways to reduce costs while still meeting the needs of the traveling public for airports that are safe, secure, efficient, and comfortable. Many are facing the challenge by adopting high performance building technologies and practices, combined with intelligent services offerings, which enable them to control energy consumption and operating costs, shrink their environmental footprint, and meet airline passengers’ needs.

Airports are large consumers of energy, according to data provided by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and International Energy Agency (IEA). In fact, the IPCC says that airports account for 5 percent of annual energy use and a comparable percentage of greenhouse gas emissions for the entire air transportation sector, which also includes all of the aircraft fuel used each year. Airports consume more than 12 million tons of oil equivalents of energy each year, a number that the IEA expects to triple by 2050 as airports expand and their number grows.

Management teams at many airports are finding that they can have the greatest impact on energy bills and achieve the most favorable return on investment by improving the capabilities and performance of heating, ventilating, and air conditioning (HVAC), lighting, water, and other building systems in terminals and other airport facilities.

Solutions Tailored For Airports

It is a significant challenge to maintain a safe, healthy, and comfortable indoor environment in large buildings like airport terminals, which often include vast open spaces, long passageways, high ceilings, and large banks of windows.

Constant foot traffic allows unconditioned air to enter the building. Wide swings in occupancy occur within minutes as flights arrive and depart. A sudden change in weather or air traffic can cause unplanned flight delays and cancellations as well as overcrowded terminals for extended periods. Meanwhile, the airport itself has evolved from a utilitarian waiting room to a full-blown shopping, dining, and entertainment destination with its own set of requirements.

Regional and feeder airports are excellent candidates for implementation of high performance concepts. Utility costs usually account for a much higher percentage of total operating costs at smaller airports, so a boost in energy-efficiency and operational performance can have a dramatic impact on the profit-loss statement at a time when many smaller airports are striving to stay competitive.

High performance buildings use proven technologies, practices, and service offerings to reduce energy use by 20-30 percent compared to conventional buildings, according to Energy Star and the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). They also deliver operational benefits that go well beyond cost savings by providing a better, more efficient, and more comfortable environment for airline passengers, airport visitors, and employees.

Operated To Perform Within Set Standards

In a high performance airport, the facilities team sets performance standards that are linked to the airport mission and most important operational, financial, and passenger-service objectives. Desired outcomes might be set for resource consumption, building system reliability and uptime, indoor air quality, or occupant comfort. The building is operated to perform within acceptable tolerances of these standards and outcomes.

For example, reliability standards could take the impact of an HVAC system failure and its disruption on normal operations into account. Comfort standards might consider the optimum temperature range to make waiting for a flight as pleasant as possible. Indoor air quality standards could be established to prevent odors from jet fuel, exhaust, or deicing agents from infiltrating the boarding areas.

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