While many of the most exciting developments in greener air travel are happening in the aeroplanes themselves, there’s plenty that airports around the world are doing to improve their eco-credentials too. From indoor forests to acres of solar panels, here are some of the most forward-looking concepts happening in the airport sector today, read more…
Cochin International Airport, India
Situated in sunny Kerala, Cochin International Airport is the busiest in the state – and the most eco-friendly, thanks to a battery of over 46,000 solar panels that supply 100% of its energy needs.
The solar panels are spread across 45 acres of land, producing between 50,000 and 60,000 units of electricity every day: enough to cover Cochin’s usage and even sell some on to India’s National Grid. The project is expected to have the same effect over the next 25 years as planting 3 million trees.
More of India’s airports could soon be taking the lead of Cochin. According to Thomson Reuters Foundation, 125 airports in the country have been told by the Indian government to generate at least one megawatt of solar energy each by March 2016.
Mexico City International Airport, Mexico
According to designers Foster + Partners, the new Mexico City International Airport will be the most sustainable in the world: no small challenge for a structure designed to eventually serve up to 120 million passengers per year.
Due to be operational in 2020, the $9.2 billion project will be contained within a single X-shaped structure. By keeping everything in one compact space, there will be no need for connecting trains or buses in the terminal.
Sustainability is embedded into every part of the design: the building will be heated and cooled by clever ventilation rather than air-conditioning, while rainwater and sunlight will be harvested and re-used.
The construction process itself often accounts for a large part of a building’s carbon footprint. The developers want to reduce this by using lightweight steel and glass, a unique prefabricated construction method.
Galapagos Ecological Airport, Ecudor
Hailed as the world’s first green airport in 2012, Galapagos Ecological Airport was designed to have minimal impact on the closely protected Galapagos Islands. Some 80% of the materials used in its construction were recycled from other sources.
The airport runs on 100% renewable energy – 65% wind and 35% solar – and incorporates some clever design features that further reduce its environmental impact. For instance, the terminal is positioned at a 45-degree angle a safe distance from the runway, ensuring that aircraft emissions can’t enter the building and reducing noise levels.
The building also makes extensive use of mechanical skylights fitted with sensors, which automatically open and close in response to changes air temperature: a much smarter and more eco-friendly system than air-conditioning.
In addition to all this, Galapagos Ecological Airport operates its own desalination plant, which reduces water wastage by converting seawater into usable water.
The airport has received a number of awards and recognitions for sustainability, including LEED Gold certification, Airport Carbon Accreditation and the Ecuadorian Punto Verde award.
Jewel Changi Airport, Singapore
Singapore’s Jewel Changi airport will soon look like something from science fiction: an enormous steel-and-glass biosphere that will contain an indoor forest, the world’s tallest indoor waterfall, and ten stories of shops, playgrounds, entertainment facilities and even a hotel.
Due for completion in 2018, the new terminal’s most striking feature is Forest Valley. Spread over five levels, this indoor park will allow passengers to go for a relaxing hike while they wait for their planes, while at night its central 40m Rain Vortex waterfall will turn into a spectacular light and sound show.
Trees and shrubs will be removed from the existing site and replanted in the new £726m terminal, which will house one of Singapore’s largest collections of indoor greenery. In total, Jewel Changi will cover more than 134,000 sq m of floor space.
While the project’s focus seems to be more on spectacle than sustainability, the new terminal will incorporate a number of eco-friendly features, including rainwater harvesting, a low-power water pipe routing and heat pumps to generate hot water.
San Diego International Airport, USA
San Diego International become the first airport in the world to achieve a LEED Platinum-certified terminal – The Green Build.
In 2012, it became the first airport in the country to replace the lights on its runways and airfield signs with LEDs, and today it operates a 3.3-megawatt solar array that produces 12.5% of its overall energy needs. Its roof reflects heat to reduce the need for air-conditioning, while natural light and ventilation is used wherever possible.
The airport also has its own storm drain filtration system that helps to prevent pollution of the local water, and is landscaped to incorporate a variety of drought-tolerant plants – ideal for southern California’s hot, dry climate.
Sustainability was also a feature of The Green Build’s construction process. More than 54,000 tons of building waste, representing 95% of the total, was diverted from landfills and recycled or reused on-site.