25 February 2014 — UPDATED 28 February 2014: Australia’s airports clearly demonstrate that what constitutes “sustainability” is open to a wide variety of interpretations, which therefore results in dramatically different outcomes in terms of actual green measures.

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The airports that have been expanding, including Sydney and Melbourne, have generally adopted industry benchmarks for sustainable construction including thermally efficient glazing, energy efficient lighting, waste minimisation and water-efficient amenities. Sydney has also installed trigeneration capability, as part of reducing the energy footprint of the terminal.

  • UPDATE: Information about Sydney has been updated to include the airport’s recent advocacy for more public transport, though a spokeswoman would not elaborate on details.

Canberra a standout

The leader in terms of built asset and infrastructure sustainability would appear to be Canberra, where the Snow family-owned airport and the adjacent Brindabella Business Park and Majura Park have achieved a number of green firsts. These include Australia’s first 5 Star Green Star rated building at 8 Brindabella Circuit, the first use of trigeneration in an airport precinct and the first commercial use of recycled water for irrigation and amenities flushing.

Other key sustainability initiatives undertaken by Capital Airport Group include:

  • Brindabella Business Park was one of the first major development in Australia to use recycled steel and concrete on a commercial scale
  • first large-scale water recycling scheme in the ACT, and near-zero reliance on mains potable water for external uses
  • gas trigeneration plant in Majura Park reduces CO2 emissions by more than 1100 tonnes per year and trigerenation also installed for the new terminal and at Brindabella Business Park
  • adaptive reuse of 11 existing buildings on business park site
  • commissioning of Australia’s first blackwater recycling plant at airport in May 2007
  • 2.68 million litres of on-site water storage capacity
  • bike storage and public transport connectivity

The newly built terminal building incorporates recycled materials, thermally efficient glazing, low VOC finishes and energy efficient lighting, in addition to two gas-fired trigeneration plants at either end of the terminal, which generate the bulk of the terminal’s electricity needs, meaning the airport is operating off the grid for most daylight hours

Melbourne Airport’s environmental management systems are certified to AS/NZS 14001:2004, and the owners, Australian Pacific Airports Ltd, have committed to ongoing improvements in environmental performance. Key sustainability measures to date include:

  • the conducting of energy audits to establish energy-efficiency opportunities
  • retrofitting of LED lighting to terminal T3
  • sustainable procurement policy for the IT department, with subsequent initiatives including a highly-efficient KyotoCooling wheel system for the data centre which saves substantially on energy use
  • painting of the roofs of T2 and T3 Terminals with Skycool, a water-based acrylic paint which reduces heat absorption by 30 per cent and therefore reduces terminal HVAC requirements
  • eight megawatt trigeneration plant due to be completed and commissioning by November 2014
  • installation of rainwater harvesting to terminal T2E
  • mandatory collection of stormwater capture and reuse for all new buildings over 400 square metres
  • installation of timed flushes at urinals and dual flush systems for viable amenities
Sydney Airport, gridlocked by traffic

Sydney Airport

Sydney airport might be the largest airport in the country in terms of plane movements and passengers, yet it lags behind some of the other capital cities in terms of sustainability when it comes to transport.

Recent media has focused on the heavy concentration on car based transport and expensive – and for most people, unaffordable – rail connections.

A Sydney Airport spokeswoman said the airport currently had one bus service from the Eastern Suburbs but had advocated in a plan put forward to the state government for “more” public transport and cheaper public transport. However, the spokeswoman would not say how many more buses had been advocated or from what locations

A media statement from the airport said: “On the airport rail link, the two airport stations are privately operated by a company called AirportLink under an agreement between them and the state government. Sydney Airport has no ownership stake in the AirportLink Company and does not set the station access fee.

“Sydney Airport continues to advocate for more affordable public transport services.”


The recent expansion of the international terminal has included the installation of a trigeneration plant, and a range of other sustainability measures have been implemented including:

  • undertaking an energy audit, which revealed the HVAC systems in terminals T1 and T2 were responsible for the greatest share of carbon dioxide emissions, with the airport since replacing the existing 3.6MW chillers with high efficiency variable speed chillers, with progressive upgrades to high efficiency plant planned over the next five years
  • implementation of demand-controlled ventilation strategies in zones within the international terminal
  • installation of energy-efficient LED lighting throughout the domestic and international terminals, and the retrofit of energy-efficient lighting for car parks
  • completion of an airport-wide leak detection program as part of the Water Savings Action Plan
  • installation of water-savings devices across the airport and introduction of a real-time water demand monitoring system
  • construction of a recycled water treatment plant with variable speed pumping systems which provides recycled water for amenities flushing and cooling towers in the International precinct

See more details here

Perth Airport

Perth Airpport

Westralia Airport Corporation is due to prepare a new environmental management strategy for Perth Airport this year. Key initiatives outlined in the 2009-2014 strategy are focused around Indigenous cultural heritage, flora and fauna, soil and waterway protection, air quality and land-use planning. The strategy to date in terms of energy and water included:

  • conducting energy audits and communicating with tenants about possible energy-reduction measures
  • development of a resource use reduction strategy targeting energy, water and waste, and the introduction of a waste recycling program
  • installation of low water use and waterless urinals in upgrades and new installations
  • use of low-grade ground water for dust suppression
  • introduction of an integrated water cycle management plan
Brisbane Airport

Brisbane Airport Corporation has been lauded for its sustainability initiatives, winning the sustainability award in the 2013 Lord Mayor’s Business Awards.

Its Property Development Master Plan, a 50-year vision for the land around Brisbane Airport, last year was registered as part of the Green Building Council of Australia’s Green Star – Communities PILOT rating.

“Our vision for this plan has always been to create a vibrant centre for commerce, innovation and recreation and an internationally recognised model of sustainable development,” said BAC’s property general manager Renaye Peters.

The airport is current working on its 2014 Master Plan, which it says has environmental sustainability as its focus. In a previous interview with The Fifth Estate, an airport spokeswoman said the airport had already had some sustainability wins, including:

  • reduced annual water consumption by 1600 megalitres, or 70 per cent
  • energy saving projects, including LED lighting replacements, lighting control systems and renewable energy generation, saving around 4.4 gigawatt hours of electricity a year
  • 40 energy efficiency projects underway, with expected savings close to 7GWh a year
  • an environmental management system aligned with the international standard ISO 14001
  • investigating trigeneration and additional solar arrays

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