New Equipment Facility Clears the Way for More Efficient Snow Removal at Austin Straubel Int'l

Kimberly Kaiser
Published in: 

Snow removal is a big issue for all Wisconsin airports, but inadequate storage for snow removal equipment was making it more problematic than necessary at Austin Straubel International Airport in Green Bay.

Facts & Figures

Project: Snow Removal Equipment Facility

Location: Austin Straubel International Airport, Green Bay, WI

Project Partners: Mead & Hunt, Wisconsin Bureau of Aeronautics & FAA

Cost: $7.99 million

Size: 64,000 sq. ft.

Design Features: Separate areas/entrances for storage & maintenance functions; floor-level heating.

Benefits: Consolidates snow removal equipment into same building; provides better airfield access.

A new 64,000-square-foot equipment facility is expected to change that this winter and for many winters to come. A $7.99 million project that concluded in September consolidated all the airport's snow removal equipment into one building, moved the fleet closer to the airfield and provided separate areas for maintenance and storage.

Previously, snow removal equipment was scattered throughout the airfield in various buildings, explains airport director Tom Miller. The facility that housed most of it was built 30 years ago, when equipment was much smaller. When the airport's current equipment required maintenance, crews had to park it in an aisle, which often blocked in other pieces of equipment, recalls Miller.

The new building was not only designed for the airport's current fleet, but also for the larger, faster pieces it intends to add in the future - multi-purpose equipment with plows and brooms on the same unit, specifies Scott Volberding, operations manager at Austin Straubel.

The previous snow removal equipment building was land-locked, with little room for expansion. The new site, just north of Runway 6-24, includes room for future expansion, notes Miller.

In January 2009, Austin Straubel enlisted Mead & Hunt to design its new snow removal equipment facility. After the firm's initial study with the Wisconsin Bureau of Aeronautics, Federal Aviation Administration and Austin Straubel airport administrators and maintenance staff, construction began in September 2009 and concluded one year later.

"We tried to address all the functional needs of the owner," says Tim Close, Mead & Hunt project manager. "There's space for parking, maintenance, washing equipment and administration."

Green Design

The $7.99 million project was designed to obtain Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.

According to Miller, Brown County led the community in the development and implementation of sustainable practices.

"We decided early on to make the building green and to take all the reasonable steps necessary to try and reduce our carbon footprint and make the building as efficient as possible," he explains.

The new building, he notes, is expected to cost roughly 40% less to operate per square foot compared to traditionally built structures.

In an effort to achieve LEED certification, the new facility includes 76 skylights, a white roof to reflect the sun's heat and concrete pavement surrounding the building, which also reflects heat, Miller reports.

By late April the SRE Building is nearly enclosed at GRB.

Rather than using municipal potable water to wash snow removal equipment, crews will use rainwater collected in a 20,000-gallon cistern located on the new facility's roof. "During the course of the construction this summer, the contractors had to empty the cistern twice because it filled up with rainwater so fast," reports Miller. If the cistern runs empty, the airport can switch to potable water sources.

Using geothermal energy to help heat and cool the building addresses one of the project's main goals: energy efficiency.

"We've drilled a number of wells just off the site that go down into the earth about 300 feet," Miller explains. "(They) capture some of the heat from the ground in the wintertime so that we don't have to continually reheat the circulating water that's used to provide warmth to the building."

Austin Straubel and Mead & Hunt overcame the traditional challenges of heating a large warehouse-style building with high ceilings by placing the heating system in the floor slab. "The floor is where 90% of the work is going to be done - between the floor and 10 feet up off of the floor," comments Miller. Locating heat there, he explains, provides a "very efficient means of heating the building" compared to relying on fans to bring down traditionally delivered heat that naturally rises to the ceiling.

Fans still play a supporting role in the new system. Three 25-foot wide ceiling fans keep air moving to minimize temperature differences between the ceiling and floor in the maintenance and storage areas.

A photo of one of many manifolds which will regulate the in-floor heat.

Separate Spaces

Designing the facility in two sections - one for storage and another for maintenance and administrative activities - makes operations much more efficient, reports Miller. When equipment was disassembled for maintenance or washed on the main floor of the previous facility, crews got in each other's way. Separate entrances in the new building allow operators to park equipment for storage without impacting the maintenance area. Equipment in storage no longer has to be moved to allow other equipment to enter, which was previously a problem, recalls Miller. If maintenance is needed, the new facility has two bays for larger pieces and a third smaller bay with a lift.

Garage doors dividing the two areas allow the airport to keep the maintenance bays warm for the mechanics without pumping unnecessary heat into the storage area.

When planning the new space, Miller consulted employees who would be using the facility - the people who best know its inner workings. He asked them what the building needed to make their jobs easier and more efficient.

"We took into consideration a lot of the things the employees put forth, and I think that it's really worked out quite well," Miller reflects. "There are a lot of built-in inherent things that make us much more efficient as a snow team."

The white interior with 74 skylights will make interior artificial lighting almost unnecessary.

Few Challenges

As project manager, Close recalls very few challenges during the one-year construction project. After winter weather suspended work for about three months, the project continued right on schedule, he says. Heavy rains in June delayed outdoor paving until August, but even that worked "quite well," says Miller. "For a long time there was a lot of muck on the outside of the building because it would rain for a day and a half, and then it would be dry for a day and then all of a sudden it would rain again," he recalls.

In addition to the new snow removal equipment facility, crews also built a new sand storage facility. The new building holds 2,100 tons of sand and 50 tons of solid deicer - the average volume needed during a typical Green Bay winter, says Volberding.

"We really like to get sand ahead of time, so it can be really dry by the time we need it," he explains. "The worst is trying to get it during the winter."

The former snow removal equipment facility is currently being repurposed as a storage site for building and ground maintenance equipment. "It's in an ideal location for that use," comments Volberding, noting that such equipment used to be spread among various buildings.

"(Now) they know exactly where it is instead of trying to figure out where we put this the last time," Miller reflects.

Austin Straubel also recently ordered a new Oshkosh aircraft rescue and firefighting truck to replace an old 1,500-gallon truck. The new equipment is expected next spring or early summer, Miller reports.

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