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Airport construction focuses on sustainability, supporting local economy

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As the announcement comes that the pedestrian bridge connecting Terminal 2 at San Diego International Airport to taxis and shuttles is now closed for demolition, it’s clear that construction at the airport is well under way.

What might not be so obvious is how the airport’s improvements are aimed at not only making things easier on its passengers, but on the environment as well.

The Green Build, the largest project in the airport’s history, has been designed to achieve Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.

In 2008, the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority entered into an agreement with the California State Attorney General’s office to reduce greenhouse gas emissions at San Diego International. The airport was also one of the first major airports in the country to adopt a formal sustainability policy.

Katie Jones, spokeswoman for the airport authority, said the Green Build project was based on two principles: first, the principle of sustainability, and second, the principle of reviving the local economy through partnerships with local businesses to complete the project.

“We did come into this with a focus on LEED certification and reducing any environmental impacts,” Jones said.

Some of the main features of the project are 10 new gates to reduce terminal congestion, curbside check-in, a dual-level roadway that will separate arriving and departing passengers, 12 security lanes to speed passenger flow and an expanded concession area.

The dual-level roadway, which will be constructed where the pedestrian bridge stands now, will be open-air, reducing its energy consumption.

“It will be a high use of natural light, and it also won’t be climate controlled because we’re taking advantage of the good California weather,” Jones said. “So for that area we won’t need any air conditioning.”

Additionally, improvements to the terminal will utilize windows to drive down the need for lighting. It is part of an ongoing move the airport has taken toward less dependence on the grid. Jones said the airport’s energy conservation efforts that began in 2009 showed a $500,000 reduction in costs for 2009.

Reflective or “cool” rooftops will further lead to less need for climate control and drought-resistant landscaping and low-flow water fixtures will also be a part of the new design.

One of the least obvious efforts is something passengers will use daily but may never realize was a part of the airport’s sustainability goal -- concrete.

When the airport completed its taxiway improvement, it set up a batch plant so that concrete pulled from projects can be re-used.

In preparation for the future, electric vehicles that drive on those recycled concrete roadways, including some on the airport’s fleet of vehicles, will have new electric-vehicle charging stations to plug into as part of the project.

Each of the improvements, Jones said, fits in with the airport’s long-standing goal of being among the nation’s leaders in going green.

“Sustainability has been one of our cornerstones for years now, so this was a natural progression.”

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