San Francisco aims for 'triple zero' airport

San Francisco aims for 'triple zero' airport

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San Francisco Airport (SFO) has embarked on a journey to become the first “triple zero” airport campus in the world.

The charge in the facility’s five-year strategic plan to achieve zero net energy, carbon neutrality and zero waste-to-landfill requires new partners to reimagine the way SFO designs, constructs and operates to achieve deep sustainability outcomes and to revolutionize the passenger experience and the industry at large, reports the U.S. Green Building Council.

 “We have a 5,000-acre campus with an asset portfolio of over 14.5 million square feet, across nearly 70 buildings that currently consume 440GWh of energy each year. If we can get to zero, what’s stopping others?” airport Chief Development Officer Geoff Neumayr said.

Despite being one of the fastest-growing airports in the United States, serving 53 million passengers each year, SFO curtailed emissions by 33 percent from a 1990 baseline and cut water use by 12 percent and natural gas by 5 percent over the last three years, officials said. Conserving these resources saves the airport an estimated $650,000 in annual utility costs. 

To realize its goal of becoming a zero net energy campus, the airport is setting energy use intensity (EUI) targets as contract obligations for all capital projects.

The projects report proposed energy conservation measures and renewable energy potential throughout each delivery phase to the airport’s newly formed ZERO (Zero Energy and Resilient Outcomes) Committee, which advises the Project Management Office’s allocation of its $100 million Zero Net Energy Capital Fund. The ZERO Committee also ensures adherence with SFO’s zero net energy guidelines, sustainable planning design and construction guidelines and the LEED Campus Master Site Certification Program.

While existing airport terminals operate at about 170–180 EUI kBtu/sq. ft./year, the new SFO Terminal 1 is aiming for an operational EUI of 50–60 kBtu/sq. ft./year, using a range of strategies including displacement ventilation, radiant heating and cooling systems, dynamic glazing, regenerative elevators, heat recovery readiness and a high-efficiency baggage handling system.

The project is also creating safe, healthy and comfortable environments for passengers and nearly 40,000 SFO employees, contractors and consultants.

Building materials, products and systems are selected based on LEED materials and indoor environmental quality credit requirements and modeled through a triple-bottom line sustainability performance and measurement tool.

The ZERO Committee is also tracking project learning to redeploy on future projects. For example, the airport commissioned a study of its first zero net energy-ready building when its actual energy consumption was higher than predicted through the design phase energy model. Consultant MKThink installed sensors to analyze how occupant behavior, weather, plug loads, building envelope, thermal set points and lighting control systems could be adjusted to yield efficiency outcomes to bring the facility closer to its zero energy target.


Topics: Airports / Aviation, Architectural Firms, Associations / Organizations, Automation and Controls, Building Owners and Managers, Construction Firms, Consulting - Green & Sustainable Strategies and Solutions, Energy Audit / Energy Management, Energy Saving Products, Engineering Firms, Great Commercial Buildings, Healthy & Comfortable Buildings, HVAC - Heating, Cooling, and Ventilation, Indoor Air Quality (IAQ), Interiors, Radiant Heat - Electrical & Hydronic, Sustainable Communities, Urban Planning and Design, USGBC, Ventilation, Water Saving Strategies and Devices

Companies: U.S. Green Building Council


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