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Airport aims for maximum points in Green Build effort

There’s a reason it's called the Green Build.

When it’s complete, the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority expects Lindbergh Field to be among the most sustainable airports in the nation through decreased water usage, reduced energy consumption and the use of alternative energy sources.

Workers install the final piece of glass on the wall of Sunset Cove. Photo courtesy of San Diego County Regional Airport Authority

The project is planned to receive LEED Silver certification from the U.S. Green Building Council, as has become the Airport Authority’s minimum requirement for any future building. It even has a few additions that may earn the project additional LEED points beyond what was originally sought.

The mere fact that the project will re-use brown-field land has earned the project points on the LEED scorecard. Then add the 50-foot glass curtain wall of Sunset Cove — the new concessions area, and there are more points to be earned for its high doses of natural light.

Airport Authority spokeswoman Katie Jones said other features behind the scenes, like variable-speed elevators with sensor technology, will further reduce energy consumption. Still, the Airport Authority wished it could have done more.

“We had to operate under the confines of an existing, currently-operating terminal,” Jones said. “So there are things that we weren’t able to do, like shutting down the entire HVAC system. But we are on target for LEED Silver.”

Although the project wasn’t able to get points for that, it may receive additional points than originally anticipated with the addition of a photovoltaic solar energy system on the roof of Terminal 2.

Jones said the photovoltaic project won’t roll out with the rest of the Green Build, but that it may be done in 2014.

Down in the terminal, everything was taken into consideration, she added.

“We took a really hard look at all of the fixtures that utilized, not just the light fixtures, but like the baggage handling system.”

There are 850 motors running in the airport’s baggage handling system. The new baggage handlers will use motors that are 30 percent more efficient than those traditionally used, according to Jones.

In October 2011, the Green Build received a $2 million boost from the Federal Aviation Administration, through the Voluntary Airport Low Emissions program. Congress created the national VALE program in 2004 with the goal of reducing all sources of airport ground emissions and to help airport sponsors meet their state-related air quality responsibilities under the Clean Air Act. It’s available to commercial service airports located in poor air quality areas of the country, as designated by the Environmental Protection Agency.

The Airport Authority used the grant to buy low-emission infrastructure for Lindbergh Field that will provide power and preconditioned air units for aircraft at the new Green Build gates.

The day the grant was announced, Airport Authority President and Chief Executive Officer Thella Bowens said it would help the authority follow through on the commitment it made to improving air quality in the region while also reducing the airport’s carbon footprint.

A total of 17 gates will have the units installed -- the 10 new gates and seven existing ones, and they’ll eliminate the need for the planes to use engines while at the gates.

Reflective, “cool,” rooftops will also be built to reduce energy consumption and the new dual-level roadway, separating arriving and departing vehicles outside Terminal 2, will also require less energy since it’s been built open-air. The whole terminal will have windows as its primary source for light during the day.

The planned consolidated rental car facility and the recently-finished centralized receiving and distribution center also add to the Green Build’s green stature, as they put a focus on reducing wasted vehicle miles traveled around the airport. The new distribution center will be more heavily used in just a few months, once the new vendors of Sunset Cove start using it.

The airport has also begun picking up used oil from airport restaurants, storing it at the RDC so it can be converted into biodiesel for the trucks that make the deliveries to the terminals, Jones said.

Sustainability has even squeaked its way into the administrative side of things.

Dan McGuckin, project manager for Turner Construction, said all of the project documents for the Turner Construction, PCL Construction Services Inc. and Flatiron Construction Corp. joint venture are distributed to subcontractors electronically. It means less paper.

And the use of onsite BIM, or building information modeling, has helped reduce wasted material, he added.

“So we really are looking at every possible aspect,” Jones said. “It’s not just low-flow toilets and xeriscaping (landscaping for arid climates).”

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