Airports have become essential in modern society for work, tourism, business, and are a key driver of economic development in many parts of the world. The positive improvements to everyday life, convince, economy and connectivity, have resulted in an increasing number of passengers, airport expansions and new developments to meet demand. The growth of the market has however simultaneously increased the industry’s effect on the environment and therefore, impacting sustainability.
There has been a widespread of initiatives shared to improve current procedures and reduce future environmental impact – putting increasing focus on airport’s sustainability teams.
Airports are highly complex environments that require a large amount of energy to run. However, building design objectives are advancing and technologies are being developed to minimise energy usage such as skylights, high ceilings, light/heat sensors and intelligent baggage systems to name a mere few.
Renewable energy sources such as wind, geothermal and solar are significantly less harmful to the environment. In addition, they avoid problems such as power outages; giving airports more control over their energy infrastructure. They also offer massive financial benefits: energy costs are a significant outgoing for airports, so reducing usage can make businesses much more profitable.
The Carbon Trust standard has been established to provide a framework to establish zero waste to landfill: Gatwick became the first airport to achieve this accreditation in June 2018. Initiatives include reusing materials, increasing recycling and converting organic waste into energy for the airport.
Increased air traffic has resulted in increased noise. Research has shown that long-term exposure to this noise is severely impacting the health of those living in nearby areas. There are initiatives being implemented across the industry including designing quieter aircraft, changing flight routes, constricting flight times and investing in property in the surrounding area.
The way airports have historically operated is seriously damaging the environment and therefore impacting sustainability. The awareness of this has delivered numerous new performance schemes and standards with a central goal being the Paris Climate Change Agreement. Meeting these expectations are critical in delivering a sustainable industry, which has in turn, increased the need for a well-qualified and highly knowledgeable sustainability team.
The responsibilities of this team are quickly growing and are critical for an airport’s future success: design, planning, project management and action, all need to be improved, managed and monitored.
An additional challenge airports face is the activities operated from third parties such as airlines and ground handlers, and their impact on the environment. Airports have a responsibility to partner with these providers, create strategies and offer platforms to improve their way of operating – a key responsibility for sustainability teams to research, implement and manage.
It is fantastic to see the volume of new initiatives implemented, advanced technologies released and campaigns to raise awareness, to ensure best practice across the entirety of an airport. Sustainability teams are quickly raising their profiles, truly maximising efficiency, reducing environmental damage and delivering sustainable growth.