LEED Spotlight: Winnipeg’s Richardson International Airport Terminal certifies LEED Silver

Winnipeg, Manitoba

June 7, 2015

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The number of passengers at Winnipeg Richardson International Airport hit a record high in 2014, reaching 3.67 million, an increase of 5.3% over the prior year’s results. On average, the terminal sees 10,000 travellers per day, plus all the greeters who come to meet and pick up travellers.

Given this high volume of activity on a daily basis, we were very interested in hearing from the Winnipeg Airports Authority (WAA) as to why they chose to build green, and what unique challenges they faced while working to become the first LEED certified airport terminal in Canada.

Key features

The Winnipeg Richardson International Airport Terminal Building (ATB) originally consisted of concrete aprons and turf on a campus comprised of multiple buildings and parking lots. The existing stormwater sewer system could not handle the additional stormwater run-off the new terminal would generate, nor service the existing infrastructure; a new land drainage sewer system was constructed and designed to remove 80% of suspended solids for the entire campus.

Due to this, the new building was designed as a series of transparent luminous pavilions to take advantage of Manitoba’s prairie landscape and sky while imparting a friendly, inviting “front door” welcoming experience to the city, the surrounding community, and departing and arriving passengers.

Given that the Terminal Building is almost half a kilometer long, it is a unique facility when compared to a typical commercial building. This is largely due to the nature of air travel, security restrictions and the special circumstances under which travellers use an airport. Planning and sustainable design considerations were complex.

One of the guiding principles for the design of the terminal building was the need for the plan to be simple and intuitive. Transparency through the building and to the exterior landscape was one of the design devices used throughout the terminal to foster a sense of intuitive wayfinding. From an aesthetic and experiential perspective this transparency helps connect the interior of the building to the unique exterior landscape, drawing attention to the prairie and the large expanse of sky that define this region.

The airport is also located in one of the most fluctuating climates in the world. A transparent 49,500 m2; three storey structure presented a significant mechanical design challenge, requiring high level analysis early in the design process to allow for major decisions to be made on the envelope and mechanical systems, enabling the building to achieve 57% in energy cost savings over a baseline building.

What drove them to build green

Travel contributes to approximately 27% of the world greenhouse gas production and the aviation industry is responsible for approximately 9% of the total travel GHG production. While aircraft are a significant source of aviation emissions, additional airport sources include ground support equipment emissions, fleet vehicles and stationary sources such as boilers, generators and incinerators.

Airports are becoming increasingly under scrutiny for the carbon emissions generated in the air transportation industry. WAA is committed to making sustainable choices and doing the right thing for our business, our employees, our customers, the community and the environment. As such, WAA developed carbon reduction strategies as part of the project. Key project goals include lower overall airport emissions and operating costs while providing healthy interior spaces for employees and travellers alike.

The WAA is also committed to ongoing energy management to optimize performance for future years, in addition to conducting regular emissions inventories. We are beginning to track the terminal building’s consumption data and plan to develop water and energy reduction goals and targets moving forward.

A greener terminal is improving the quality of the travelling experience

Airport staff and volunteers have expressed their enjoyment of working in such a bright and welcoming building. Since the opening of the airport terminal building, our Airport Survey Quality (ASQ) ratings have significantly improved, confirming that our passengers are pleased with the cleanliness, ambience and overall satisfaction with the airport terminal.

We’ve also received many positive comments from the business community and the general public. The new energy efficient terminal has created a sense of pride among staff and the community as a whole. Winnipeg Airports Authority’s vision is “to lead transportation innovation and growth”. Being the first Canadian airport terminal to achieve LEED certification certainly fits with our vision.

LEED – contributing to responsible corporate leadership

WAA strives to achieve environmentally responsible airport operations and development, going beyond the requirements of applicable laws and regulations. The intent is to integrate environmental protection into all stages of airport operations and extend environmental awareness and responsibility to all employees, tenants and service providers. WAA was the recipient of the 2011 Airports Going Green Award for being pioneers in our pursuit to build a LEED terminal building.

Responsible corporate leadership is exemplified through sustainable building practices and achieving LEED certification furthers WAA’s commitment to that end.

“Attaining external validation of our commitment to the principles of sustainable development is truly exciting,” says Barry Rempel, President and CEO of Winnipeg Airports Authority. “Working closely with Stantec, our teams delivered a beautiful, functional facility that minimized its carbon footprint. It’s something that I believe our community will be able to take pride in for years to come.”

Additional sustainability features

Iterative energy and daylight simulations helped to incorporate solar gain into passive heating in winter and inform the design to curtail summer solar glare. The building takes full advantage of daylighting harvesting. Photo sensors and occupancy sensors help ensure that artificial lighting is turned off in areas and rooms that are sufficiently daylit or unoccupied.

Jet diffusers condition spaces for large open areas. Along the large expanses of glazed walls, ventilation totems provide heating and cooling in addition to the radiant floor system. Ventilation totems help to condition only the lower 10ft of the vertical occupied space, enabling significant energy savings while providing a comfortable indoor environment for passengers and employees.

Winnipeg Airports Authority (WAA) commissioned the building envelope to help ensure durability, acoustical performance, thermal performance, structural performance, reliability, prevent water intrusion and air leakage. The building envelope performance contributes holistically to the overall energy performance of the building.

In addition, 26,508 m2 of open space is planted with drought tolerant plant species indigenous to Manitoba. By choosing to plant native species, a fixed irrigation system is not required, enabling the ATB to realize significant water savings.

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