Port Columbus Int'l Ups Airfield Sustainability

Rebecca Kanable
Published in: 

If airfields were buildings, there's little doubt that the new replacement runway at Port Columbus International Airport (CMH) would be a shoo-in for Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) certification from the U.S.Green Building Council.

Runway 10R-28L at the medium-sized Ohio hub is the first runway in the United States to have high-intensity light emitting diode (LED) runway edge lights - a change that's expected to help reduce power consumption by 60%. The runway itself is paved with hot mix asphalt, and a perpetual design approach was used to improve resistance to rutting and fatigue and therefore reduce the extent of surface rehabilitation needed in the future. CMH is reportedly the first medium-sized commercial hub in recent history to implement this design for hot mix asphalt that is expected to last 50 or more years.

The new 10,113-foot-long, 150-foot-wide runway that was commissioned last August cost $135 million and is the largest capital improvement campaign in the airport's 85 years. With the new runway in operation and most of the other work complete, the project is currently almost 20% under budget, reports Tim Mentel, project manager at the Columbus Regional Airport Authority. Officials expect the entire project to be completed this fall, when the old runway is converted into a parallel taxiway.

Project: Replacement Runway
Location: Port Columbus (OH) Int'l Airport
Owner: Columbus Regional Airport Authority
Runway: 10R-28L
Commissioned: August 2013
Cost: $135 million (including $2 million
for airfield lighting)
Total Runways: 2
Daily Scheduled Air Carrier Departures: Almost 150
Program Highlights: First U.S. airport to use LED high-intensity runway edge lights; largest capital project in airport history; first new hot mix asphalt runway at a medium/large hub in more than a decade
Sustainability Highlights: South airfield LEDs will consume 60% less power; 720 tons of steel scrap & 3,700 tons of concrete recycled during site demolition
Airfield Project Design Lead: CH2M HILL
Obstruction & Airspace Studies: Woolpert
Construction Managers: Parsons Brinckerhoff (New Runway & Taxiway); CH2M HILL (Conversion of Old Runway to a Taxiway)
Runway & Taxiway Pavement Structure Design: Roy D. McQueen & Associates
Earthwork/Utility & Runway Conversion Prime Contractor: George Igel Co.
Storm Water Detention Basin Design: Gresham, Smith and Partners
Paving/Electrical/NAVAID Prime Contractor: Shelly & Sands
Electrical Contractor for Airfield Electrical Systems & NAVAIDS: Jess Howard Electric Co.
Demolition: S. G. Loewendick & Sons
LED High-Intensity Edge Lighting:
ADB Airfield Solutions
Thermoplastic Markings: Ennis-Flint
Pavement Markings Installation: PK Pavement
Weather Systems: Vaisala
Security Systems: Bosch
Solar Obstruction Lighting: ADB
Obstruction Lighting & Security System  Installation: Jess Howard Electric
Accolades: Quality Asphalt Paving Award from Flexible Pavements of Ohio; Nat'l Asphalt Paving Assoc. Award; 2013 Excellence in Engineering Award from the American Council of Engineering Companies of Ohio; pilot/airline video named a best practice by FAA Airport Construction Advisory Council; best paper award from Aviation Committee of the Illuminating Engineering Society of N. America

The project addresses future land and air space needs by moving CMH's southern runway 702 feet farther south. The new increased distance between the south and north runways will allow for simultaneous takeoffs and landings in the future. The larger envelope of land to the west of the existing terminal provides room for development - specifically, for a replacement terminal. Portions of the original runway were built in 1929.

The FAA financed nearly 63% of the runway project costs; the airport authority covered the remaining expenses using passenger facility charges.

A "triple bottom line" - one that considers social and environmental factors as well as economic factors - guided the entire airfield initiative. The principle was central for CH2M HILL, the project's lead design firm; Parsons Brinckerhoff, construction manager for the new runway and taxiway; pavement designer Roy D. McQueen & Associates; and other key participants.

"CH2M HILL partnered with the authority from day one to set sustainability goals for this key development program," says Project Manager William Peduzzi, P.E., vice president of CH2M HILL. "A triple bottom-line approach was considered for each program element - from minimizing printing of plans and reports through post-commissioning operational and maintenance requirements."

The new runway's edge lighting falls squarely under the environmental category of the triple bottom line. The airport authority jumped at the chance to install LED high-intensity runway edge lights shortly after the FAA approved them last spring - even though the LEDs did not qualify for Airport Improvement Program (AIP) funding and runway construction was already nearly complete at the time.

Construction Waste Management

With sustainability as a primary project goal, recycling occurred whenever possible during site demolition, earthwork preparation and construction, Mentel relates.

About 185,000 cubic yards of pavement from the old runway, parking lots and ramps was broken up and used as fill or crushed aggregate for the new construction. Incorporating the recycled materials into the base layers of the new runway and cement stabilizing the subgrade really saved cost on the project, Mentel notes. The year earthwork began (2011) was the wettest year in Columbus history; by reusing the old asphalt, "we were able to keep the project on schedule, because we didn't have to go back and dry the earth," he explains.

Reinforcing steel and concrete from several structures demolished on the 96-acre project site were also recycled. "We took down several Cold War and even WWII era buildings," Mentel recalls.

In total, approximately 720 tons of steel scrap and 3,700 tons of concrete were recycled during site demolition.

Site preparation also included more than 400,000 cubic yards of earthwork. CH2M HILL designed the project to minimize the need to remove materials and haul them away via city streets. By raising the proposed runway grade, the design team balanced the earthwork and avoided unnecessary disturbance of a previous Air Force site plant that generated and stored hazardous materials.

In addition, the airport authority combined the construction of a storm water basin with the runway construction to optimize both projects. Constructing the Turkey Run Storm Water Management Basin required significant excavation on the 23-acre storm basin site, while the 10,113-foot runway complex required fill embankment. The design incorporated excess materials from the basin into the runway complex embankment, and construction was coordinated to allow direct placement of the materials. By combining projects, CMH eliminated the double handling of the materials - a strategy that saved costs, construction time and associated vehicle emissions.

"We were very pleased with the results," Mentel reflects. "It allowed us to maximize the reuse of our resources while mitigating potential risk of the former plant site by filling over the existing ground." 

Perpetual Pavement

Sustainability was also a guiding goal during the pavement design, relates Chris Decker, project manager with Roy D. McQueen & Associates.

The main reason designers took a "perpetual pavement" approach and specified high-quality materials within the pavement layers was to provide full frost protection for the runway's pavement structure. The strategy is also expected to reduce the overall rehabilitation work needed for its surface layers - thus reducing material use, energy consumption, work vehicle emissions, etc.

Decker estimates that the runway's surface might need to be replaced in 17 years or so, but the entire structure should not need to be reconstructed.

If all goes well, a full-depth asphalt replacement should not be needed for the expected design life, adds Mentel. He does, however, expect to replace the top 3 or 4 inches of surface material, as it takes the brunt of weather and traffic wear.

Decker, in turn, stresses the importance of quality construction: "You can design items that can last; but at the end of the day, they ultimately have to be constructed that way. Each layer inside the pavement is important for longevity and sustainability."

For that reason, Roy D. McQueen & Associates provided workshops about the different pavement layers and processes before the contractor started working on them.

"Anytime you're looking at variable soil types across a grade and you're trying to build a uniform system and provide pavement longevity and durability, consistency is key," Decker explains. "With hundreds of acres and hundreds of thousands of tons of materials, making sure those materials are consistent and uniformly placed across the site - that's a huge obstacle to overcome."

Obstruction and airspace planning were also noteworthy aspects of the preliminary design phase. Woolpert used a combination of high-tech surveying and mapping tools and proprietary remote sensing capabilities to identify obstructions such as trees, vertical lighting and buildings before developing construction plans for the relocated runway. After construction began, the firm conducted a second aeronautical survey, so flight plans and approach procedures could be developed.

Designing Sustainability

David Gotschall, senior project manager with the Columbus Regional Airport Authority, links cost-effective operations with sustainable design.

Having already had positive experiences with LED technology for taxiway edge lights, the authority ran additional cost-benefit analyses and determined that LEDs should replace incandescent bulbs wherever possible. When the current runway project is finished this fall, the entire south side of CMH will be outfitted with LED lights.

While CMH's runway LEDs initially cost more than incandescent bulbs, the LED fixtures don't use as much electricity. The airport is already seeing a 35% to 45% savings on a year-to-year basis, and the savings should increase over time, because the new LED lights will last longer and therefore require less maintenance over time, Mentel explains. 

The true expense of changing airfield lights extends beyond the costs of replacement lamps and maintenance staff salaries; it also includes the cost of maintenance vehicles burning diesel fuel and creating emissions, notes Bill Weigel, regional sales manager for ADB Airfield Solutions.

Weigel explains that there are two systems for runway edge lights: medium-intensity systems for smaller, general aviation airports and high-intensity systems L-862E(L) for commercial service airports,
like CMH.

LED lights themselves, of course, are not new. Airports have used them to light taxiway edges, runway centerlines and touchdown zones for years. The FAA, however, didn't approve LED use in high-intensity runway edge lights at Part 139 airports until last spring. And they currently are currently not eligible for AIP funding.

One of the primary issues regarding funding involves enhanced flight vision and night vision imagery systems. LED light fixtures do not typically emit an infrared component, and some freight carriers have installed enhanced vision systems to view infrared using the approach and runway edge lighting, Weigel explains. Research is currently being conducted on potential ramifications. (For more information, reference the March 2013 update from the FAA Office of Airport Safety and Standards at www.aci-na.org.)

While the issue is still pending, Weigel has no doubt that LEDs will become increasingly common in runway light fixtures, just as they have in the consumer market. Driving innovation into the marketplace requires organizations like the Columbus Regional Airport Authority that are willing to pay a higher initial cost to push leading-edge technologies forward, he adds.

Installing the LED fixtures also was a bit challenging, because the required constant current regulators (their power sources) had to fit into an existing airfield lighting vault, notes Jeff May, CH2M HILL electrical engineer. "Space within the lighting vault needed to be conserved to make room for the new constant current regulator installations," May explains. "Also, the existing constant current regulators not affected by the Runway 10R-28L construction had to remain in service. This was critical to the operation of the airfield."

Challenges aside, the benefits of CMH's new lighting fixtures are measurable. According to Weigel, LEDs have reduced the runway edge fixture load from about 175 VA (volt-amps) to about 40 VA. The threshold lights, which delineate the runway end, went from 220 VA to 40 VA, he notes. The lower energy consumption translates into a cost savings of $0.116 per kilowatt-hour, adds Mentel.

In addition to providing LED runway edge lights for the new runway, ADB provided LED runway centerline, touchdown zone and guard lights. In addition, the company supplied LED taxiway edge and centerline lights as well as guidance and distance remaining signs.

Beyond the energy savings and reduction in maintenance costs, the enhanced visibility of LEDs also provides an important safety benefit, Weigel notes. "They're a much clearer, perceived brighter light source," he elaborates. "With LEDs, there's no color shift. Incandescent lamps at lower intensities have a substantial color shift, which makes them look more orange or amber than white. When that occurs, runway lights can be confused with taxiway centerline exit lights."

ADB installed LED test beds at the Ohio airport to see how the new lights would look in various conditions, including snow. Because LEDs emit less heat than incandescent bulbs, the new fixtures at CMH won't melt snow as easily. In order to realize the full energy savings, the airport authority opted to not install heating devices with the project, Weigel reports.

The Social Bottom Line

With people as a critical element of the airport authority's triple bottom line, safety has been emphasized throughout the project. Before workers enter the jobsite, everyone (close to 900 workers so far) must attend a video training session created by the airport with the help of Parsons Brinckerhoff. After workers complete the training, they receive sticker for their hard hat to identify compliance and a personal commitment to safety.

"The safety record of the program was outstanding," reports Arnold Rosenberg, senior vice president and national director of Aviation Program and Construction Management Services for Parsons Brinckerhoff.

"There was only one lost work day over more than 300,000 work hours, which is almost 1/10th of the industry standard for heavy construction.

"We took our zero-harm approach seriously," he continues, noting that the policy refers to people on the jobsite and the environment.

With the new runway being built so close to the existing runway, the biggest challenge was keeping airplanes off the new runway until it was open, recalls Gotschall. The airport and CH2M HILL worked closely with the airlines, airline pilots association and FAA to develop construction phasing that mitigated the risk of aircraft mistakenly landing on the new runway before it was ready.

Once stone was put in place for the new runway, crews placed lighted Xs (runway closure devices) at each approach end. When the pavement was installed, fabric Xs were applied on the pavement surface every 1,500 feet and two additional lighted Xs were placed midfield.

As part of the sustainable design philosophy, CH2M HILL modified the lighted Xs to run off the electric grid instead of a diesel generator, which is the usual industry practice. Over the course of the project, standard lighted Xs would have burned 25,000 gallons of diesel fuel.

To reinforce that the original runway was still open, its runway lights were kept on 24/7. Parsons Brinckerhoff also created a video simulation to educate pilots about what they would see when making approaches at dusk and dawn. The simulation was presented to the FAA, given to airlines for pilot training and shared on YouTube. Subsequently, it was named a best practice by the FAA Airport Construction Advisory Council.

"The overall effort on everybody's part to assure that the program was constructed safely was excellent, especially considering the size of the project itself," Gotschall reflects. "We were working in an area about 20,000 feet long east to west and probably at least 1,500 feet north to south. With that size of envelope, there's just a lot going on. Keeping aircraft safe was paramount."

The efforts paid off, he adds: "We had no incidents of aircraft landing on the runway before it was open or taxiing into something they shouldn't have."

CMH's runway replacement/relocation project is scheduled to conclude this fall, after the former south runway is converted into a taxiway. Once that is complete, focus will shift to rehabilitating the airport's north runway - a project already under design by CH2M HILL.  Many of the same sustainable concepts developed for the south runway will be applied to the next runway project.  "It's just the continuation of the philosophy and innovation we have adopted for airfield development in Columbus," notes Mentel.

Since 2011, almost $700 million in airport improvements have been completed at CMH.

For More Details
Members that led the design and pavement structure teams for the reconstruction/relocation of Runway 10R-28L at Port Columbus International Airport are scheduled to present a paper about the project at the American Society of Civil Engineers' second Transportation and Development Institute Congress Conference in June. The presentation will focus on three primary elements of sustainability during the $135 million project: construction waste management, perpetual pavement design and energy-efficient edge lighting.



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