National Academies Press: OpenBook

Lessons Learned from Airport Sustainability Plans (2015)

Chapter: Chapter Seven - Conclusions

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Page 47
Suggested Citation:"Chapter Seven - Conclusions ." 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 47
Page 48
Suggested Citation:"Chapter Seven - Conclusions ." 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 48
Page 49
Suggested Citation:"Chapter Seven - Conclusions ." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2015. Lessons Learned from Airport Sustainability Plans. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/22111.
×
Page 49

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47 chapter seven ConClusions Sustainability generally is defined as encompassing a process in which organizations continually improve their economic, social, and environmental performance. The airport industry has added oper- ational improvement to the mix, and all four components can be seen as contributing synergistically to enhancing the sustainability of each individual airport and the airport community as a whole. The 31 smaller airports surveyed for this synthesis were but a small fraction of the community of thousands of airports in the United States, but they represented diverse geographical regions and oper- ating environments. Each of them felt strongly enough about sustainability to have adopted some form of sustainable activities, even if those activities were ad hoc and outside the framework of a formal plan. In nearly all cases, even among those who had received funding from outside sources such as FAA, the perceived financial cost of designing and implementing a formal sustainability plan was viewed as a major barrier, as was the limited time available to busy staff. The chief barrier was also found to be the top driver for adopting sustainability initiatives because smaller airports were compelled by the asso- ciated cost reductions to move forward with even ad hoc projects, such as installation of LED lighting. Completing the circle of the importance of financial support, availability of funding was listed as a pri- mary aid for sustainability initiatives at smaller airports. Given the limited budgets under which these airports operate, it is not surprising that financial concerns are drivers, aids, and barriers to adoption and implementation of sustainability programs. However, the airports are finding ways and means to support sustainability projects by securing funding and engaging stakeholders. In most cases, adoption of sustainability initiatives and programs would not have been possible without strong and visible sup- port from top management and/or airport owners. In many cases, FAA funding was viewed as critical. Smaller airports can take several approaches to sustainability, from ad hoc projects to sustainability plans to fully integrated sustainability master plans. Those who are embracing sustainability under- stand well the main three pillars of people, planet, and profits, and view operational sustainability as something that flows naturally from their core activities. Some airports and/or their stakeholders see sustainability as chiefly an environmental concern, which in some cases can lead to pushback when budgets containing sustainable components are negotiated with the relevant governing body. Better communication about the benefits of sustainability may help overcome such perceptions. Support for sustainability is evident among the airports surveyed for this synthesis that have adopted formal plan- ning because a large majority would be highly likely or somewhat likely to recommend the process to another airport. AD HoC iniTiATiVEs Because many of the surveyed airports began with ad hoc sustainability initiatives before embark- ing on a formal program, a list of the ad hoc initiatives that were provided during the interviews is presented here. • Engage in community outreach and encourage community involvement. • Involve tenants and the local community in sustainability initiatives by conducting workshops. • Enlist the local colleges and universities to get ideas on sustainability projects. • Inaugurate a paper and waste recycling program; consider recycling asphalt and building materials. • Implement energy reduction programs, such as lighting upgrades and better insulation. • Do an energy assessment audit. • Establish a baseline performance level and track energy use; compare utility and fuel costs against the budget quarterly, preferably on a department basis.

48 • Submeter wherever possible. • Implement a no smoking policy. • Design and construct a storm water pollution prevention system. • Engage in wildlife management and biodiversity protection. • Produce a spill prevention and clean-up plan. • Give instant rewards to employees in the form of gift cards. • Have paperless board meetings. • Engage in tenant outreach regarding energy conservation and programs. • Plant trees. • Feature sustainability initiatives on the website. • Use preheating systems for aircraft. • Initiate a noise abatement program. • Consider all potential revenue streams at the airport, such as selling fuel, leasing unneeded space, washing aircraft, and operating a bookstore. • Seek advice and funding opportunities for ad hoc projects from utilities and governmental entities. • Install low-flush toilets, hands-free soap dispensers and water faucets at sinks, and Dyson hand dryers in all restrooms. • For heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) operation, use control zones, adjusting temperatures to reflect time of day and occupancy schedules, and optimize use of the outside air economizer. • Change set points on boilers and chillers for optimum operating parameters. • Initiate a cart service and/or a valet service to improve the passenger experience. • Provide umbrellas for use in going to the parking lot; the umbrellas can be deposited in drop-off boxes. • Convert old space into a small, publicly available conference room that has a TV and hook ups for presentations. • Convert old space into a “quiet room” or “yoga room,” complete with mats and pillows. • Install large (10-ft × 10-ft) floor chess and checkers games as well as card tables in the terminal for passenger use. • Refinance and combine long-term debt. • Reduce energy use through the use of variable frequency drives on equipment; high-efficiency electrical, mechanical, and plumbing systems; room occupancy sensors; and natural lighting. • Examine current and potential airport procurement practices to obtain sustainably produced supplies. • Conduct sustainability training for employees. • Utilize alternative-fuel vehicles. • Install high-albedo roofing and pervious pavement. • Collect and treat deicing fluid. For smaller airports wishing to initiate sustainability activities, the results of this survey and the case examples offer some guidance. Because successful programs involve acceptance from those who are affected, most of the respondents recommended forming a committee or advisory council of stakeholders at the beginning of the process. The advisory group could include representatives of the employees, the tenants, the community, and the governing body. That group would then help create the program design, communicate the goals, and support implementation. Beginning with simple, low-cost, ad hoc activities, such as recycling, helps to build support and momentum among employees and stakeholders. Retrofitting lighting systems with LEDs may require an initial finan- cial investment, but the return on investment in lower energy costs will become apparent in time. Funding for energy retrofits and the sustainability plan is available from multiple sources, including FAA, state environmental agencies, and local utilities. In addition, information resources to guide sustainability initiatives have become widely available at no cost through ACRP, ACI-NA, Sustain- able Aviation Guidance Alliance (SAGA), and other organizations. A list of references is included at the end of this synthesis. Once the smaller, ad hoc projects have shown results, airports might consider another, further investment in an expert consultant to design a formal sustainability plan. As some respondent airports

49 have noted, this investment actually saves time and money in the end by streamlining the process and reducing inefficiency. Once the plan has been adopted, tracking the metrics associated with the initia- tives is critical, even though tracking uses precious staff time. Communication with all constituents throughout the process is also critical, and having solid data gained through tracking metrics provides information for explaining and describing the process and results. Once a sustainability plan has been adopted and the full program has been implemented, the benefits and results will become apparent, as the economic, operational, environmental, and social components of the organization will become more robust and resilient. In sum, according to one airport, education is the key to a successful sustainability program, and strong management support is a critical component. A funded program is not necessary to start but is highly desirable for development and implementation of a formal sustainability plan. Tracking benefits will be unique to each airport because each airport has its own priorities and culture. Signifi- cantly, none of the survey respondents or interviewees regretted adopting sustainability measures. Smaller airports in the United States are in the early phases of embracing formal sustainability efforts. If thousands of airports nationwide start engaging in more sustainable activities, the magnitude of the resulting impact will be enormous and lasting. KEY lEssons lEARnED • The airport community has embraced the concept of sustainable activities and operations. • Smaller airports often engage in ad hoc sustainability-related activities such as energy reduction without characterizing them as sustainability initiatives. • Financial constraints present barriers to sustainability initiatives, but funding may be available from federal, state, and local governments and from utilities. • Establishment, implementation, and viability of sustainability programs depend heavily on top management leadership and support. • Each airport has its own unique drivers and approach to sustainability. • Having support from stakeholders and the community is critical to a successful program, and communication before, during, and after implementation enables continued support. • Smaller airports often consult outside sources when designing a sustainability program. • For the most part, small airports use airport personnel to track sustainability performance by means of spreadsheets. • Smaller airports do best with sustainability initiatives that are easy to implement. FuRTHER REsEARCH Although the survey and interviews for this synthesis provided valuable information, other areas of interest could benefit from further research. As noted, because smaller airports are in the early stages of adopting sustainability initiatives, information on measurable outcomes was not available. Thus, addi- tional research on quantifying cost reductions and other benefits from initiatives, such as recycling pavement and metals, would be helpful to these airports. The process of implementing initiatives after identifying them is also a fertile area for research. In addition, the link between sustainability pro- grams and nonenvironmental components such as economic viability (growing the business) and social responsibility (community and human factors) could be explored in a subsequent research project. Finally, smaller airports would benefit from a description and analysis of tools that can be used for tracking sustainability metrics and performance.

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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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