VALE Grant Boosts Environmental Efficiency of Portland Jetport's Terminal Expansion

Rebecca Kanable
Published in: 

When officials at Portland International Jetport in Maine (PWM) initiated preliminary design work for the airport's recent $75 million terminal expansion, their sustainability goals were relatively modest compared to what was ultimately achieved.

In the beginning, officials directed Gensler, the project architect, toward Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) "certified," the lowest designation in the U.S. Green Building Council's four-level program. Toward the end of the design phase, however, the city of Portland passed an ordinance requiring all major municipal construction projects to achieve at least a silver LEED rating. In the end, PWM's expansion project earned a gold rating, the second-highest possible. As such, it became the second U.S. airport to do so. (Terminal 2 at San Francisco International, also designed by Gensler, was first in 2011.


Project: Terminal Expansion

Location: Portland (ME) Int'l Jetport

Owner: City of Portland, ME

Cost: $75 million

Size: 160,000 sq. ft.

Environmental Features: LEED Gold certification; Maine's largest geothermal heating/cooling system

Architect: Gensler

Contractor: Turner Construction

Civil, Structural, Mechanical, Electrical & Plumbing Engineering: AMEC Earth and Environmental

Geotechnical Engineering: Haley & Aldrich

Baggage Systems Design: BNP Associates

Baggage Screening System: Vanderlande

Lighting Design: Fisher Marantz Stone

Security & Telecommunications: Arora Engineers

Acoustics: Shen Milsom & Wilke

Boarding Bridges: FMC Jetway

Geothermal System: National Geothermal

Earthwork: Gorham Sand & Gravel

Ticket Counters: Windham Millworks

Holdroom Seating: Arconas

Flight Information Display Systems: SITA

Public Address: IED

Parking Management Software: Cincinnati Time

Elevators/Escalators: Otis

Concrete: Francis Harvey

Concrete Polished Floors: Allegheny

Signage: Neocraft

Glu-Lam Beams: Goodfellow

Window Systems/Doors: Ipswich Bay Glass

Architectural Concrete: Beton

Block: Maine Masonry

New Concessions Vendors: Burger King; Linda Bean's Maine Lobster Cafe

 The airport's new geothermal system, a key to its gold-level LEED rating, was not originally part of the project. Although the energy-saving system was considered in the conceptual stage of the project, it was not pursued due to poor predicted return on investment. Photovoltaics, windmills and ice storage were also investigated and similarly not pursued.

After the terminal design was complete, however, a $2.57 million Voluntary Airport Low Emissions (VALE) grant from the FAA made the largest geothermal project in Maine possible. It is the first VALE grant awarded for a geothermal system. The project is also garnering industry recognition. PWM recently received the 2012 Environmental Management Achievement Award from Airports Council International - North America, and the geothermal system was cited as a major factor.

Other improvements in the terminal expansion project include a new ticketing hall, six new security checkpoint lanes, three additional gates and jet bridges, a new $9.2 million inline baggage system, and a new food court.

Go Deep

Early on, a geothermal system simply didn't make financial sense, explains PWM Deputy Director Roy Williams. Then, after construction began, Gensler architect Jim Stanislaski identified the VALE program as a way to fund the geothermal system. Airport Director Paul Bradbury committed $116,000 in seed money to fund design work before the VALE grant was secured.

"VALE wanted us to show some passion in the application," Williams explains. "Our commitment to put up ‘risk' funds showed that we were willing to put the effort into it. We also needed to prove to ourselves that we would get our return on investment."

Preliminary work helped determine that 120 was the optimum number of wells for the site. Haley & Aldrich and AMEC Earth and Environmental performed a feasibility study and designed the geothermal system. Both worked with Gensler and the contractor, Turner Construction Company. "It became evident that we had to drill a test well because we didn't know what we had underground," Williams recalls.

Haley & Aldrich did so, while AMEC examined design parameters of the base building to determine what the airport could potentially save in greenhouse gas emissions. Together, the test well and Emissions Dispersion and Modeling System software indicated that the geothermal system would prevent emissions of about one ton of nitrous oxide per year. The system absorbs heat from the ground in winter to help warm the terminal, and transfers heat from the terminal into the ground during summer, which helps cool the space.

PWM's VALE grant application was initially rejected, due to a lack of competitive contractor bids. But within three weeks, the project team obtained the necessary bids. And just 48 hours after the revised application was received in Washington, D.C., it was approved.

The airport's traditional HVAC system, with boilers and chillers, was removed, and the heating and cooling system was redesigned in two months, Williams recalls. Stanislaski describes the feat as a "huge team effort" and credits the airport for spending the money on a study and test well at risk.

National Geothermal put the underground bore field in place by August 2011, so blacktop could be put down over the top of it to create a new employee parking lot. The previous employee lot was then used for passenger parking until work was complete elsewhere. It took crews 12 weeks to drill 120 wells 500 feet deep.

Williams considers the geothermal project a "terrific win" and notes that the airport is on track with projected emission reductions after eight months of use. Optimism is high for even better results in the future, because the previous winter was warm and the field wasn't prepped last summer.

"It's going to be interesting to see what happens this year because we have a fully prepped field," says Williams. "On a 95° day, the system pumps 85° water into the field and pulls back 70° water. The delta is huge."

Overall, the geothermal system is estimated to prevent the burning of 100,000 gallons of fuel oil each year, saving PWM about $100,000 annually after reduction of increased energy use for additional pumps is taken into consideration. The recurring savings are expected to increase as the cost of fuel oil rises over the estimated 40-year life expectancy of the system.

"The local community and airport benefit from clean air with lower toxic emissions, and we're putting a lot of money in our back pockets," Williams concludes.

A New Terminal

The recently completed terminal expansion first appeared on the airport's master plan in 1994, then again in 2005. From 1995 until 2009, when the terminal design was completed, the airport experienced a 55% increase in passenger traffic. With more than 1.7 million passengers annually, Williams says, "Everything was bursting at the seams."

After 9/11, a three-lane security screening checkpoint was added to the already crowded airport. "We had long wait lines, and that led to a lot of passenger complaints," recalls Williams.

The first phase of the terminal expansion, about 90% of the project, kicked off in May 2009 and took about 22 months to complete.

Instead of being crammed in the front lobby, the new screening checkpoint now has its own floor. Average wait time is about 17 minutes, and passenger complaints have dropped significantly, Williams reports.

On the ramp side, three new gates were added with three FMC Jetway boarding bridges, raising the airport's total number of bridges from six to nine. Having two spare gates provides flexibility, Williams notes. Flights diverted from Boston, for example, can use one of the spare bridges instead of parking out in the ramp. In cold weather, customers will be much more comfortable, he adds.

Phase 2 took about four months and included demolition of two airlines' workspace that had been moved into the new terminal. Crews also installed the remaining two baggage handling carousels. The first two were installed during Phase 1.

Inline Capabilities

The airport's new inline baggage handling system allows passengers to check bags in at the ticketing counter rather than dropping them at a screening area before shuffling them back to the check-in area.

Behind the scenes, the baggage makeup area is common use. After bags are screened, they are put on one of four carousels. The common-use makeup area had been one of William's main concerns, but he reports that it has worked well because PWM's five airlines work together.

Vanderlande Industries began structural work on site in October 2010, demobilized while Turner finished the building, and returned at the end of January 2011.

Three-dimensional modeling that incorporated building systems and conveyors helped identify interferences between systems during the design phase, notes Vanderlande Senior Project Manager Doug Alewelt. This, in turn, minimized issues during construction. "When we remobilized, the right-of-ways for conveyors were clear, allowing unobstructed installation to proceed," Alewelt recalls, noting that Vanderlande met all schedule requirements.

"A lot of the issues you can have during construction and installation we saw in the 3-D model ahead of time and we were able to modify designs to get around the issues," he explains.

For example, without modeling, an HVAC installer could put a duct where a conveyor needs to go.

"The Portland project worked out very well," Alewelt relates. "Issues during the installation process were pretty much non-existent."

In addition to 3-D modeling, monthly integration and coordination meetings with stakeholders helped avoid clashes. "Communication was very open," he notes. "It was unlike anything I've seen in baggage since I started 10 years ago. Everyone was committed to making sure their drawings were correct, updated and complete."

Vanderlande's VIBES system controls not only the mechanical equipment but also the baggage handling process: routing, tracking and tracing, and gathering and visualizing process information. Instead of massive control panels in a corner of the room, controls are distributed throughout the system to ease maintenance. In addition, the variable frequency drives and motors were integrated as one unit to create a more efficient installation and final system, explains Alewelt.

Vanderlande also provided three ticket counters, two automatic tag readers, a bag measurement array, four Cresplanar™ make up devices, four Vertisorters™, 284 drives and 2,600 feet of conveyor.

With everything in place, testing went through with "little or no issues," Alewelt recalls. Vanderlande finished TSA validation testing in August.

Maine Focus

The design of the new terminal celebrates one of Maine's greatest natural resources - timber. It also pays tribute to the area's boatyards and shipbuilding heritage. "One of the things that I think is particularly unique about this building is the use of natural materials, especially the wood beams," says Stanislaski. "It's unusual to go into a modern airport and see warm wood."

Gensler created a "21st century organic look" with Glu-Lam beams, he notes. An artisan-crafted ceiling about the size of a football field was created above the security checkpoint with Forest Stewardship Council-certified glue-laminated structural timbers. Large concrete columns with steel supports that resemble branches of a tree support the ceiling. Not surprisingly, the area is one of the airport's signature design elements.

Specifying warm, natural materials helps humanize air travel and provides a strong sense of place, Stanislaski relates. The terminal's wrap-around glass lets in natural light, a warm glow and a sense of ease, he adds.

Natural light and intuitive wayfinding are byproducts of the overall open design, Stanislaski explains. Clear sightlines make the terminal easy to navigate and reduce passenger stress, he adds.

Using expanses of glass in a large percentage of the public areas, however, did not come without challenges. "It's very difficult to design glass boxes and achieve ambitious energy savings," Stanislaski notes.

"Achieving LEED gold is obviously very challenging," he says. "It took looking at the systems very carefully. Doing business as usual didn't cut it. We had to tweak; we had to question everything. That's how we got there."

Radiant in-floor heating was installed instead of a standard ducted hot air system. The LEED-friendly system takes advantage of the thermal mass of the terminal's concrete slab.

From the Passenger's Perspective

In the old terminal, a grade change of almost 3½ feet from the roadway to the ticketing hall necessitated stairs and ramps that, in turn, impeded passenger flow. In the new terminal, the ticketing hall and roadway are at the same level, making it easier to access, especially for mobility-impaired passengers.

Wayfinding in the new terminal is intuitive, notes Stanislaski. Passengers enter at ground level, near the check-in area. Business travelers, in particular, appreciate being able to park in the garage and enter the terminal's third level via a sky bridge. From there, they pass through the security checkpoint and down one level to the gates.

Other improvements include an increased number of gates, improved employee parking lot, expanded Wi-Fi service and a new public address system. A new flight information display system from SITA also accommodates marketing messages and destination weather.

A new post-security food court includes Burger King and Linda Bean's Maine Lobster Cafe, a 180-seat lounge and restaurant. While burgers and lobster may seem like an unusual pairing, they're exactly what passengers requested. In addition to serving its locally oriented lobster rolls and clam chowder, Linda Bean's also sells live carry-on lobsters. Previously, tourists would often buy live lobsters before they got to the airport only to have them confiscated by TSA at the security checkpoint because of the fluid in their storage containers.

Other concessions options include Starbucks, Cool As a Moose and The Paradies Shops.

On Time, On Budget

Overall, the project was on time and within budget. Williams especially appreciated Turner's open-book accounting that allowed him to track the project's financial details on any given day - information that facilitated informed decisions about change orders, he explains.

The airport could have put the project on hold in 2009, given the down economy. But moving forward saved the airport several million dollars, Williams notes. With an available pool of high-quality labor, the project put 175 people to work at its peak, he notes.

"It never ceases to amaze me that all these building parts and pieces come from all over the world and are all assembled in one spot," Williams reflects. "The process needs to be, and was in this case, a testament to collaboration. Turner, Gensler and the Jetport worked together to deliver a project on time and on budget - a great project well done."


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