ITRP advances with environmental commitment evident throughout program

Houston Airports supports City’s Climate Action Plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and pursue carbon neutrality 

December 28, 2022

The IAH Terminal Redevelopment Program, ITRP, at George Bush Intercontinental Airport continues to advance with an environmental commitment to sustainable, energy-efficient processes and projects. 

“From the start, our Program has been intentional in its efforts to help the city become ‘cleaner,’ “ said Travis Sanderfer, Executive Program Manager of the ITRP. “More and more, passengers also expect airports to take this important initiative and we continue to deliver, very much in line with the City of Houston’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.” 

In April 2020, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and the City of Houston’s Office of Sustainability released the Houston Climate Action Plan, a science-based, community-driven strategy for the city to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, meet the Paris Agreement goal of carbon neutrality by 2050, and lead a global energy transition. Houston Airports has been fully onboard with the initiative. 

“We take seriously our obligation to manage and mitigate air quality issues, noise pollution, waste generation and more,” Sanderfer said. 

Sanderfer said that the design, construction, and operation of the ITRP infrastructure provides opportunities to reduce impacts and demonstrate commitment to more sustainable practices. He discussed several environmentally focused initiatives undertaken within the context of the groundbreaking program, including a new Terminal D concourse, the new International Central Processor and the ongoing refurbishment of the existing Terminal D space.  

There are new air handling units (AHUs) being installed in Terminal D to better regulate the temperature in the gate houses and throughout the terminal. These new AHUs will deliver the highest air quality to Houstonians and world travelers with the latest Ultraviolet (UV) air purification technology as well as Photocatalytic Oxidation (PCO) filtration that filters at a much higher level than traditional HEPA filtration systems.  

PCO is a powerful air purification technology and has the ability to destroy particles as small as 0.001 microns (nanometer) whereas HEPA filters can only filter particles as small as 0.3 microns. PCO air purification is by far the most effective technology to fight indoor air pollution. Some advantages of PCO are: 

  • Dramatically reduces contaminants immediately at the source 

  • Decontamination of air and surfaces 

  • No residual contamination – it does not generate any type of waste 

  • It does not use chemicals like sprays or air fresheners 

  • Does not generate ozone 

  • Minimal maintenance and ecological low consumption 

“Additionally, modern and efficient LED lighting is being installed to brighten up the spaces,” Sanderfer said. 

The $1.36 billion ITRP, due for substantial completion in 2024, is creating a new terminal, concourses, parking, and associated facilities. This major project will replace aging facilities, solve operational issues, improve customer service, and accommodate growth. 

Sustainability is a key driver of the program and always has been according to Sanderfer.  

The Terminal D/E parking garage was closed in March 2021 and subsequently leveled. From this ITRP project alone, workers recycled 53,000 tons of concrete and 2,000 tons of metal. 

“Certainly, there was a level of nervousness for the traveling public post-COVID,” Sanderfer said, “so we are doing all we can to assure them we are still taking measures to maintain safely and cleanliness for all parties,” Sanderfer said. 

“So much of this is ‘invisible’ to the traveling public but we have their best interests at heart. We are proud of what we are doing.” 

Much of the ITRP’s design has been done within the framework of best practices of airport environmental design and sustainable management. Houston Airports has an energy star certification for the Infrastructure Division Office, certifying energy efficiency according to EPA standards, and is working to extend the certification to other buildings.   

Guided by the acclaimed LEED score card system, the ITRP spaces have been designed to LEED Silver equivalent. Some of the fantastic benefits of this include: 

  • 27% energy use cost reduction compared to LEED baseline and 25% reduction compared to applicable energy code 

  • 100% LED lighting for all new and replaced lighting  

  • Advanced energy metering for sources 

  • Intelligent building control strategies to adapt to occupancy needs 

  • Reduction in outdoor and indoor water usage by 50% and 40% respectively compared to LEED baseline 

  • Sustainable material selection and specification 

  • Target of 75% diversion of total construction and demolition waste 

“There are some quantifiable measures we have taken on the ITRP that factor into Houston Airports’ ongoing environmental and sustainability goals,” Sanderfer said. They include energy use efficiency and greenhouse reduction, water use reduction, solid waste and recycling, sustainable materials and system selection, and indoor environmental quality. 

“Each of these are areas of emphasis on the program,” Sanderfer said, “and we have achieved demonstrable results within each area.” 

Sustainability Initiatives Throughout Houston Airports 

Sustainable actions underway throughout Houston Airports includes measure to reduce environmental impacts, help maintain high, stable levels of economic growth and ensure organizational goals are achieved in a way consistent with the needs and values of the local community. 

Motivated by concerns over air quality impacts to local health, and anticipating looming regulations, airport ground vehicles and equipment are being transitioned to technologies that will yield substantial emission reductions, such as battery-powered vehicles.  

At William P. Hobby Airport, a solar panel array is already generating power that is saving almost 7,000 pounds of carbon emissions every month, while providing shade to passengers’ vehicles in the Texas heat. Airport Director Mario Diaz said that Houston Airports is also actively exploring the possibility of a solar farm on the Bush Airport campus. Such a farm could eventually provide energy in excess of the airport's needs and further illustrate the commitment to making environmental improvements. 

In 2018, Houston Airports became one of only ten airports nationwide to finalize an FAA-approved sustainable management plan. in the next five years, Houston Airports has committed to reducing its environmental impact in several categories that include energy, water, greenhouse gas emissions, and sustainable design. 

Steps taken to date include: 

  • a 1-megawatt solar array at Hobby Airport is online 

  • the majority of the ground support equipment used by United and Southwest Airlines is  electric - and has been for over a decade 

  • Houston Airports has undertaken multiple energy efficiency projects with significant savings  

  • an LED runway lighting conversion has been completed. 

  • airport parking garages have been upgraded with LED lighting – the A/B garages at Bush Airport and the Red garage at Hobby are done, and the transition is well underway at Bush Airport’s C garage. The transition has also begun in the terminals. 

  • all restrooms are on course to be even more water-efficient than code, per Houston Airports’ design standards. 

  • carbon accreditation has begun for Houston Airports  

Sanderfer said that the ITRP will ultimately be convenient, simple, functional, and intuitive for the entire passenger experience. Its flexible design will allow for future innovation and changes to technology, operations, and security, and it is technology-enabled for automated processing and customer convenience. 

It is also being constructed to be environmentally conscious and friendly. 

“The ITRP will prove to be highly reflective of the Houston community and environment,” Sanderfer said. “Our desire to be sustainable and energy-efficient are key drivers for what we are doing.” 


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