Net Zero In The Fox Valley

Outagamie County Regional Airport embarks on a net-zero environmental impact mission, incorporating 'smart' building systems and setting a green standard for general aviation support facilities


Green Features

The GA development at ATW encompasses the design and construction of a new 8,000-square foot FBO terminal and 12,000-square foot hangar complex at a cost of some $5.5 million. The airport’s investment was some 60 percent of that cost; the remainder came from Federal and State funding.

Remarks Lenss, “The terminal was interesting because it’s a greenfield development; so we had a clean sheet to work with. The way the GA terminal was approached in terms of design was from a performance standpoint; it was performance-driven.”

With a net-zero target, there is a bit higher premium per square foot, but considering the life of the building — an impressive 100-year lifespan — the economics begin to work in the airport’s favor over time, he adds.

“We looked at dimensions, site orientation to maximize daylight, opportunities for solar panel systems and geothermal systems … and then it was a lot of heavy insulation — a very tight building envelope. We employed durable and sustainable finishes that were sourced from the local area.”

The heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) features were tied heavily with ‘smart’ building automation solutions, so that if a window is open, the air conditioning system will not turn on. Similarly, if there is enough natural daylighting coming into the structure, the lights, which are LED, will not turn on.

The airport is also harvesting rainwater for use on the grounds, and employs natural rain gardens to manage some of the runoff.

The design of the terminal incorporates high efficiency systems such as radiant floor heating. “We looked at everything from the colors we used — are they absorbing heat? — to a lot of modeling so we could tweak the design,” relates Lenss.

Regarding the human side of sustainability — the receptionist at the terminal station has full command of the primary areas in the facility in order to maximize the visibility for employees. “So they can always meet and greet guests appropriately as they arrive, and it helps us utilize our staff more efficiently,” he adds.

A Net-Zero Mentality

When the development is complete, it will be LEED-certified.

“A lot of airports are embracing sustainability, and we certainly did with regard to the master planning,” comments Lenss. “We conducted a greenhouse gas emissions inventory so we know where we are at.

“I firmly believe there will be more of those activities coming from a regulatory standpoint. And if you don’t know where you are at today, it’s hard to even respond in the rulemaking process. Without that, you can only provide emotional responses to the regulations, as opposed to a data-drive response.

“That’s one reason we put our toe in. And, at the end of the day, it’s the right thing to do.

“We fully intend to have a net-zero impact from an environmental standpoint, that is — we will not have a carbon footprint, and any environmental impact we do have will be offset by measures of sustainability present throughout the organization.”

ATW has wrapped up its sustainable master plan; the County board has accepted. Now, says Lenss, the airport will start to develop metrics around the sustainability features so it can track the projects, and determine what the return is with regard to energy consumption.

“Then we will start to model that; it will take us a few years to build the data, but then we should really start to see some clear trendlines, he explains.”

For example, the commercial terminal represents about $350,000 per year in utilities; that cost goes to the rate-base of the carriers and tenants. “So if we can drive that cost down, or even flatline it, we are winning, and saving,” adds Lenss.

“We always circle back to, in some shape or fashion, enhancing air service for the community.”

The New Economy

Another new development for ATW is coming into fruition as well. The Fox Valley Technical College has agreed to lease airport land and develop a public safety training center (see sidebar).

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