Outagamie County Airport Builds Net Zero Fixed-Base Operation

Author: 
Dan Vnuk
Published in: 
January-February
2014

Outagamie County Regional Airport (ATW) in Appleton, WI, significantly raised the industry standard for sustainable design and construction when it opened a new general aviation terminal last fall. Those involved with the project predict that the $3.6 million facility will be the nation’s first net zero energy airport building. Currently, it’s undergoing a full year of measurement and verification.

“The GA (general aviation) terminal design is projected to consume approximately 54,000 kilowatt hours of electricity annually, which is less than one-third the energy consumption of a similarly-sized, traditionally-designed building,” explains Matt Dubbe, an architect with project engineer/designer Mead & Hunt. “The terminal will produce the majority of its electricity on-site with a 25-kilowatt solar photovoltaic panel system.”

To qualify as an official Class D Net Zero Emissions Building, a facility must produce or purchase

facts

figures

Project: New General Aviation Complex
Location: Outagamie County (WI) Airport
Fixed-Base Operator: Platinum Flight Center
Project Cost: $3.6 million
Terminal: 8,000 sq. ft.
Hangar: 12,000 sq. ft.
Designer/Engineer: Mead & Hunt
Building Contractor: SMA Construction

enough emissions-free renewable energy to offset the emissions from all the energy it uses annually. Net zero buildings must also perform 70% better than code requirements; but ATW’s new facility was designed and built with a target goal of more than 80% total energy savings, including the offset provided by on-site renewable energy systems. The remainder of the building’s energy needs will be purchased from off-site renewable sources.

The terminal is also expected to earn platinum level certification for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design — the highest designation awarded by the U.S. Green Building Council. Aptly, the new 8,000-square-foot facility is home to Platinum Flight Center, ATW’s fixed-based operator. 
The energy-efficient structure includes geothermal heating and cooling, a highly insulated exterior with high performance glazing, rooftop solar panels, natural ventilation and abundant daylighting. An advanced building automation system monitors daylight and occupancy and adjusts the building systems accordingly.

Building its south-side GA terminal to such lofty sustainability standards fits with the airport’s overall green goals: By 2030, ATW hopes to be completely carbon neutral.

The east-central Wisconsin airport is already garnering national attention for its efforts in implementing sustainable design practices. Currently, it is one of 10 airports selected by the FAA for a pilot program about developing a sustainable master plan.

Officials from the airport and Mead & Hunt hope the energy-saving methods used at ATW spread throughout the industry. “My goal is that our solutions are scalable, so larger airports can use the lessons learned and work towards carbon neutrality,” says Dubbe.

Divided We Stand

The new terminal and associated 12,000-square-foot hangar are part of the airport’s 2003 master plan to relocate the private terminal, charter activities and flight training away from the main terminal.

Previously, the general aviation terminal was located near the control tower, separate from the general aviation hangars.

“It’s really making a synergy for all the general aviation at Outagamie County,” says Pat Heil, general manager at Platinum Flight Center. “One of the neatest improvements is that once we moved to the south side of the airport, there was a lot more interaction between us and the tenants that are renting hangar space there. It just makes it that much easier for us to continue to grow those synergies and make a vibrant general aviation airport active again.”

The terminal has 8,000 square feet of floor space, divided between the main level and partial second floor that includes a conference room overlooking the runway.

Outagamie County officials were on hand to celebrate the grand opening of a new, more upscale facility that replaced the original Platinum Flight Center, which was built in 1963.

“We’re excited that this facility will be able to provide that first impression to the Fox Valley that (customers) may not have gotten in the past,” says Outagamie County Airport Director
Abe Weber.

The Fox Valley is the group of 14 interconnected communities located along the Fox River and Lake Winnebago. ATW is its commercial and business transportation hub, providing support for the region’s world-renowned leader paper industry and serving as the main base of privately owned regional airline Air Wisconsin. ATW was also the original home of Midwest Airlines, which began as a corporate carrier for Kimberly-Clark, the papermaking giant founded in nearby Neenah, WI. (See sidebar for information about Kimberly-Clark’s recent investments at ATW.)

Charting the Uncharted

Constructed over a 12-month timeframe, the new GA terminal was completed on schedule and within budget. An unusually difficult winter required certain trades to adjust their schedules and use temporary heaters to protect weather-sensitive materials.

“This was unchartered territory for everyone,” notes Dubbe. “From a design perspective, all decisions were performance-driven, so the process was very hands-on.”

Weber looks to the future: “As energy costs rise, we want to make sure we’re keeping our expenses as low as possible to make us financially sustainable into the future. If there’s enough daylight, you won’t even be able to turn the lights on.”

Because the building has windows that open, occupants can take advantage of natural ventilation, capitalizing on Wisconsin’s cool spring and fall weather, he adds. “If the windows are open, you can’t turn the air conditioning on. And, conversely, you wouldn’t be able to turn the heating on if the windows are open,” Weber explains.

According to County Executive Tom Nelson, there’s more to ATW’s recent project than cost savings. The new facility is also intended to give a positive first impression of the Fox Valley to business travelers. “It shows we’re a cutting edge, progressive community,” says Nelson. “It makes sense from the spending side, but it’s also the right thing to do.”

The Flight Department that Paper Built

Kimberly-Clark Corp., makers of Kleenex tissues, Scott paper towels, HUGGIES diapers and many other mainstay household products, plans to build a new aviation facility on the south side of Outagamie County Regional Airport in Appleton, WI. The move comes on the heels of numerous general aviation infrastructure upgrades made there over the past five years.

The Outagamie County Board authorized former Airport Director Marty Lenss and the county executive to enter into a land lease with Kimberly-Clark for about 1.7 acres for $17,679 annually over 20 years. The agreement also gives the company the right of first refusal on an adjacent 1.1-acre lot for potential future expansion and two 10-year renewal options.
Construction is expected to begin soon on a new hangar and office for its flight department. The facilities will be located next to the airport’s new $3.6 million general aviation terminal and $650,000 hangar.

“It’s certainly an important investment by the private sector into the airport,” Lenss comments. “The airport has made significant investments, including access roads, parking lots, utilities, taxiways, hangars and a self-serve fueling station for private pilots and businesses that own or lease planes.
“This addition by K-C tells us that we’re doing some things out at the airport that are right. The fact that they would seek to invest at our airport is a good thing.”

Airport officials hope that the three new facilities will inspire additional private investment. “We want it to be very much a corporate feel, a corporate campus,” he explains.

Fox Valley Technical College plans to open a new public safety training center on the south side of the airport later this year.

SMA Construction, which recently finished the airport’s new general aviation terminal and hangar, was contracted to build Kimberly-Clark’s new facility.

 

Subcategory: 
General Aviation

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