Saturday, November 12, 2011

Energy-saving design features lands airport LEED certification. Indianapolis International Airport (KIND), Indiana.

Sunlight floods through enormous windows and skylights into the Indianapolis International Airport passenger terminal, spreading light and warmth. And it saves on the sprawling building's energy bills.

Meanwhile, outside in the fields and ponds of the airport, beneficial bacteria clean the environment of fuels, deicing chemicals and other toxins left by airplanes.

And thousands of air travelers a day may catch a bus to Downtown, cutting down on the number of air-polluting vehicles on the roads.

Those are some of the items in a long checklist of architectural and engineering design features that are saving at least 18 percent of the energy costs to operate the Col. H. Weir Cook Terminal.

On the third anniversary of the opening of the passenger terminal, the Indianapolis Airport Authority announced Friday that the building has qualified for certification in Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.

Known as LEED, it's a worldwide program of the U.S. Green Building Council that has become the gold standard for environmentally friendly construction that is also as healthy as possible for people.

A LEED building has been scrutinized since the beginning of construction, and a computer has modeled its use of energy, heating and ventilation, water and other resources.

At more than 1.2 million square feet, the passenger terminal plus several adjacent buildings form Indiana's largest LEED-certified construction project. In size, it ranks in the top 2 percent of the 10,000 LEED-certified buildings in the country.

And it is among the first airports in the nation, along with airfields in Boston and San Francisco, to carefully design new passenger terminals to meet the environmental requirements.

"On the third anniversary of the midfield terminal opening, we are reminded of the decades-long foresight and strategic planning that were required to create the award-winning airport we now enjoy," said John Clark III, executive director and chief executive of the airport.

The Indianapolis airport improvements, including the terminal, cost about $1.1 billion. Generally, the construction materials and techniques required to meet LEED standards are expected to add 1 percent to 2 percent to the costs.

Airport spokesman Carlo Bertolini said, "In our situation, we believe it was a little under 1 percent" because of the unusually large scale of the project.

"On the return side, savings (from the LEED features) is estimated about $2 million a year, probably more," he said.

That means the added costs of incorporating energy-saving and healthy materials will pay back savings in a few years, maybe sooner, considering the rising costs of fuel and electricity, he said.

Ashley Katz, spokeswoman for the Washington-based Green Building Council, said at least 93 buildings have received the LEED certification in Indiana.

Before the airport's designation, the largest buildings were the 806,000-square-foot Cooper Tire Warehouse in Franklin and the 790,000-square-foot Nestle Beverage plant in Anderson.

Among the smallest in the state is the 800-square-foot security guard building at Cummins Corp. in Columbus and the 2,600-square-foot Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant at 6154 N. Keystone Ave. in Indianapolis.

In between are school buildings, department stores, many university campus buildings and nonprofit facilities such as the Ronald McDonald House in Evansville.

The Fountain Square headquarters of Keep Indianapolis Beautiful is a Gold LEED-certified building -- sometimes open for scheduled public tours -- that boasts of 12 percent savings in its energy use.

Indianapolis architect Constance Torres, who worked on School 31 for Indianapolis Public Schools, said it incorporated new heating and ventilation systems, paints and other materials that don't emit chemicals, and other healthy features.

School systems and owners of other buildings "are looking to save energy, and they are looking for materials that will be healthy for the people using the building," she said.

The LEED program is beginning to spread to the home construction industry, she said.

"You can go into Lowe's and find boards made from sustainable forests. LEED for homes is kicking into high gear in Indiana."

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