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LESSONS LEARNED FROM AIRPORT SUSTAINABILITY PLANS This synthesis presents the findings of ACRP Synthesis S14-02-11, Lessons Learned from Airport Sustainability Plans, a TRB project to analyze and provide a benchmark for sustainability initia- tives at smaller U.S. airports. The report included a literature review, a web-based survey of 31 U.S. airports with a 100% response rate, and telephone interviews with airport personnel at 12 selected facilities. The synthesis presents and analyzes the survey responses and provides information gained from the telephone interviews in the form of case examples. Sustainability has many definitions. One commonly accepted definition of sustainability comes from the âReport of the World Commission on Environment and Development: Our Common Future,â better known as the Brundtland Report, which was commissioned by the United Nations and issued in 1987. The Brundtland Report challenged humanity to âmake development sustainable to ensure that it meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needsâ (Brundtland and World Commission on Environment and Development, Our Com- mon Future: Report on the World Commission on Environment and Development, Oxford University, 1986, para. 27). Another definition of sustainability identifies three principal actions that support social, environmental, and economic goals, also referred to as the âtriple bottom lineâ (people, planet, and profits). The airport community has adopted its own definition of sustainability. Called EONS, for Economic viability, Operational excellence, Natural resource conservation and preservation, and Social responsibility, it was developed by Airports Council InternationalâNorth America and adds operations to the triple bottom line components (ACI-NA March 2006). In 2010 FAA issued interim guidance on sustainability plans, which stated, âAirport Sustain- ability is a broad term that encompasses a wide variety of practices applicable to planning, design, building and operating airport facilitiesâ (Black 2010). In view of the wide diversity and unique chal- lenges of individual airports, the Sustainable Aviation Guidance Alliance (SAGA) recommends that each airport develop its own definition and approach to sustainability (SAGA 2009). Most survey respondents and interviewees involved with this synthesis followed the SAGA advice to develop their own definitions of sustainability, and this report features working definitions of sustainability adopted by some of those airports. Like other industry sectors, airports view sustainability as a process of continuous improvement, not an end goal. When embraced as a process of continuous improvement, sustainability initiatives can contribute to almost every facet of airport operations and thus can serve to facilitate future growth. However, limited financial and human resources often constrain sustainability initiatives at small airports. For this reason, like some larger airports, small airports are pursuing sustainability activities in several ways, including incorporating sustainability principles into a master plan (sus- tainable master plan); developing a formal, stand-alone sustainability plan (sustainable management plan); and implementing sustainability actions on an ad hoc basis. Airports that developed sustainable master plans and sustainable management plans had the option to apply for FAA funding through the Sustainable Master Plan Pilot Program or to develop the plans using their own or other resources. Airport applications for FAA funding require reference to airport sustainability plans, which could occur within the master plan or as a stand-alone plan. SUMMARY
2 The survey for this synthesis found that many smaller airport respondents are in the early stages of implementing sustainability plans. Lack of available financial and staff resources is cited most often as the reason for delayed sustainability performance improvements. Nearly all of the respondent air- ports are reducing energy consumption, and initiatives related to energy reduction are often financed by outside parties and implemented independently of a formal sustainability plan. Airport survey participants viewed sustainability programs as costly to design. Consultants are often necessary at the planning stage, and contractors may be needed for implementation. Respondents perceive the programs as being labor-intensive because staff members add sustainability performance activities and tracking to their existing responsibilities. However, despite the initial costs and continuous effort required, most respondents see benefits from adopting formal sustainability plans and recommend sustainability planning to other airports. Eleven survey respondents who have sustainability pro- grams stated that they were âhighly likelyâ to recommend a sustainability program to another airport, and eight stated that they were âsomewhat likelyâ to recommend such a program. None stated that they would advise against pursuing a sustainability plan. Sixteen of the airports participated in the FAA-funded Sustainable Master Plan Pilot Program, comprising the majority of medium and small airports in that program. Thirteen other airports that either have pursued self-funded sustainability plans or have implemented sustainability initiatives on an ad hoc basis also participated. Based on survey results, airports with self-funded sustainability plans have made greater progress toward adoption of sustainability planning and implementation than have FAA-funded sustainability grant recipients. Both airports with self-funded sustainability plans and airports without a formal plan have adopted a broader range of energy and climate initia- tives than have airports with FAA-funded plans. However, recipients of FAA-funded sustainability planning grants have adopted a broader range of actions based on social responsibility. With respect to management, tracking, and natural resource initiatives, the survey found no difference in outcomes between recipients of FAA sustainability plan grants and airports without a formal plan. The survey found certain consistencies among the respondent airports. Sustainability initiatives adopted by smaller airports, regardless of the existence of a formal sustainability plan, included the following: â¢ Lighting upgrades, including LED lights â¢ Solar and geothermal energy systems â¢ Recycling of municipal and construction waste â¢ Planting trees and native plants â¢ Community and stakeholder outreach â¢ Employee programs â¢ Funding from nontraditional sources. In addition to the survey results, this synthesis presents more in-depth information on sustainability initiatives at 12 airports that are featured as case examples in chapter six. The approaches to sustain- ability vary with airport size, location, priorities, and management, and each of the case examples offers a window into real-life issues, situations, and solutions.