National Academies Press: OpenBook

Lessons Learned from Airport Sustainability Plans (2015)

Chapter: Chapter One - Introduction

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Suggested Citation:"Chapter One - Introduction ." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2015. Lessons Learned from Airport Sustainability Plans. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/22111.
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Suggested Citation:"Chapter One - Introduction ." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2015. Lessons Learned from Airport Sustainability Plans. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/22111.
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Page 4

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3 BACKGROUND As environmental, societal, and economic pressures increase, sustainability has become an important concept to ensuring long-term viability. Many organizations and governmental entities now understand the value of sustainable practices, and the U.S. airport community has enthusiastically joined the move- ment. Indeed, airports are discovering how sustainability considerations can improve management for their complex operations (see Figure 1). Early adopter airports have pursued sustainability certifications such as the U.S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC) Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) for construction projects, created their own sustainable design and construction manuals, and utilized the Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure (ISI) Envision framework. FAA recognized the value of sustainability initiatives by promoting airport sustainability and advancing funds to support ACRP airport-specific sustainability projects to serve as resources for airports. Appendix E provides a list of those ACRP projects. The FAA also offers Voluntary Airport Low Emissions Program (VALE) and zero-emission vehicle (ZEV) grants that can fund specific sustainability actions, such as electric supply for gates and alternative-fuel passenger transport. For some airports, sustainability plans are a central component of successful sustainability pro- grams. If airports want a systematic approach for establishing a sustainability program that includes functions across the organization, a formal sustainability plan is an optimal method. Formal plans enable airports to engage with stakeholders and identify shared goals and strategies to improve perfor- mance. However, formal plans are not the only way that an airport can advance sustainability. Sustainability generally falls into two distinct areas—design and operations—with each requiring a different analysis and set of tools. In the design phase, an airport generally seeks guidance from outside consultants and looks at current trends and operations while planning for a more sustainably focused future. Capital improvement projects present ideal opportunities for integrating sustainable features into infrastructure. Operational sustainability can take many forms, such as more efficient traffic flow, access to low-interest financing, and employee wellness programs. As stated, there is no uniform sustainability approach that is suitable for all airports, and sustain- ability practices at airports are complicated by airports’ range of sizes, from large, international hub airports to small general aviation fields. In addition, governance structures vary, with state, county, and/or city airport ownership, airport authority ownership, and in some cases private ownership. Sustainable operations require ongoing support and sustainability tools, such as annual reporting and environmental management systems. Although airports benefit from sustainability-related projects that ultimately save money, staff time, or both, the early stages can be hampered by tight budgets that can support only limited capital projects and by small staff teams that sometimes work overtime hours to maintain basic operations. Smaller airports often experience these challenges more acutely than do larger ones. Small airports with a desire to adopt sustainability programs must approach sustainability with ingenuity and flexibility. A common approach for smaller airports is to adopt an ad hoc project, such as recycling waste, planting trees, or installing LED lighting, as an initial demonstration of the benefits from sustainability-oriented actions. If an airport has the funding and commitment from its management, staff, and stakeholders, it can adopt larger, more complex projects. chapter one INtRODUCtION

4 The resources used to inform sustainability initiatives vary widely, from green construction man- uals, to industry publications, to outside experts. ACRP publications frequently are cited as helpful resources, including ACRP Synthesis 10: Airport Sustainability Practices (Berry et al. 2008), which studied sustainability practices at a wide range of airports, and ACRP Synthesis 53: Outcomes of Green Initiatives: Large Airport Experience (Thomson and Delaney 2014), which described effective environmental practices at large airports. Appendix C places both of these ACRP syntheses and other sustainability guidelines and programs in historical context. A full list of ACRP publications address- ing various elements of sustainability is included in Appendix E, along with sustainability-related plans from certain airports. SCOPE OF tHIS SYNtHESIS This synthesis was proposed, adopted, and commissioned to gain greater insight into sustainability planning. The scope of this synthesis included: • Review of existing airport sustainability planning documents, with an emphasis on nonhub com- mercial service and general aviation (GA) airports, to determine definitions of sustainability, initiatives included, major focus areas, and scope of the planning documents. • Interviews that examine delivery on commitments outlined in the plans, long-term program man- agement, barriers and aids to implementation, and whether comprehensive airport sustainability plans are more beneficial than is implementing projects on an ad-hoc basis. Interview results are presented as case examples and lessons learned in summary format. • Identification of costs or benefits realized from the existence (or absence) of an airport sustain- ability plan. FIGURE 1 Recommend sustainability planning to other airports (number of airports with plans).

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TRB’s Airport Cooperative Research Program (ACRP) Synthesis 66: Lessons Learned from Airport Sustainability Plans explores sustainability initiatives at smaller U.S. airports. The synthesis presents an analysis of survey responses and provides information gained from the telephone interviews to help inform airport leadership and employees who are considering, developing, or implementing sustainability plans.

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