Minimizing the environmental impact of airports was at the top of the agenda during a panel session on the eco-friendly airport at the World Passenger Symposium in Bahrain.

The IATA Airport Development Reference Manual (ADRM) is in its 12th edition and provides best guidance in design and development. It contains a Sustainability Chapter covering such aspects as energy and carbon, green mobility, resiliency, and performance management.

It is being used to good effect. Queen Alia International Airport in Jordan, designed by Foster + Partners, has a solar farm that provides 30% of airport consumption, uses local materials, and enjoys a passive design, meaning it works within the local conditions.

Airport emissions broadly fall into two categories:

  1. Embodied carbon
  2. Operational carbon

Embodied carbon is a challenge going forward. These are emissions in the materials used—producing, transporting, and installing them as well as disposing of them. Low carbon techniques, new materials, and different demolition processes must all be employed to keep embodied carbon to a minimum.

Then there is operational carbon. Using renewable energy is the solution, such as generating electricity on site using photovoltaic panels. The location of a solar farm must be carefully considered, however, as it can interfere with operations. Wind turbines or geothermal systems are other options.

Where renewables are not possible, efficiency is the name of the game. Again, there are a multitude of options available, such as LED lighting, improvements in heating, ventilation, and cooling (HVAC), and better baggage systems.

Airside, rapid exit taxiways, assisted aircraft taxiing, and electric or hydrogen-powered ground support equipment are all part of an energy efficient airfield. It was noted that electrification does put extra pressure on an airport’s grid and that must be considered as well as where charging points would be located.

Four elements were noted for a sustainable construction strategy:

  1. Efficient use of area
  2. Structural optimization
  3. Low carbon materials
  4. Energy efficiency and renewables

Local issues should also be considered, including air quality, noise, and water / soil protection. Circular ideas are also becoming popular. JFK has a community garden that takes waste from the airport restaurants to turn into compost that supports food crops destined for local food banks.

Resiliency was also discussed. It was pointed out that 25% of the world’s busiest airports are less than 10 meters above sea level. This makes flooding a real possibility. Kansai International Airport was closed for two weeks following a typhoon, for example. This led to a number of design improvements, including the relocation of electrical rooms and watertight doors.

Resiliency also introduces such elements as hydrogen fuel and infrastructure—likely to be essential in future. There is a financial aspect too as climate change is viewed as systemic risk finance companies are actively promoting risk assessment and disclosure in this area.

“There is a real step-change,” said Antoinette Nassopoulos-Erickson, Senior Partner, Foster + Partners. “And sustainability is now a priority. Building less is more sustainable, but it must be done without compromising operations and passenger service. And it helps airports not to overspend.”


The Panel

Antoinette Nassopoulos-Erickson, Senior Partner, Foster + Partners

Vivekanandhan Sindhamani, Sustainable Aviation Lead, NACO

Martin Braun, Assistant Director Airport Development, IATA


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