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Primera LEEDs the Way at the CDA
Primera LEEDs the Way at the CDA

For over 15 years, Primera has been involved in various engineering roles with the Chicago Department of Aviation (CDA), both at O’Hare and Midway International Airports. As a leading full-service engineering firm, Primera has provided a host of services at both airports, but found that the real impact has been in sustainability, an often overlooked area in large-scale transportation facilities.

In 2003, under the direction of the CDA and the City of Chicago, a program was initiated to develop guidance and standards to incorporate sustainability into the O’Hare Modernization Program – a $6.6 billion upgrade of O’Hare International Airport’s infrastructure to meet current and future airport needs. The CDA’s Sustainable Airport Manual (SAM), which was developed and is administered by an oversight team that includes Primera, was instrumental in this effort. The SAM, which has served as guidance for sustainable design and construction in an airport environment since 2003, also includes provisions on how to design, build, and operate concessions and tenant spaces at the airport.

With respect to the U.S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC) Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) project rating system, the SAM does not aim to replace this well-known industry standard when it comes to airport environments. Where feasible depending on the type of project, the SAM encourages the pursuit of LEED certification and, in those cases, SAM and LEED certification are done concurrently. In fact, there are credits within the SAM that award points for projects achieving LEED certification.

As of the date of this article, the CDA has six projects that have achieved LEED certification. These are:

  • North Airport Traffic Control Tower (LEED Silver)
  • Enterprise Rental Car Facility (LEED Silver)
  • Signature Flight Support FBO (LEED Silver)
  • Midway Consolidated Rental Car Facility (LEED Silver)
  • FedEx World Services Center (LEED Silver)
  • DHL Global Forwarding Facility (LEED Certified)

A seventh, the South Airport Traffic Control Tower, is anticipated to achieve LEED Gold certification that will make it the highest LEED certification level for any CDA project.

A sampling of some of the sustainability features from the projects listed above include: permeable pavement parking, rainwater collection and reuse, on-site photovoltaic power generation, wind turbines, energy efficient lighting, environmentally-friendly construction waste management, and vegetated green roofs. In fact, five of the seven LEED projects above have vegetated green roofs demonstrating the CDA’s emphasis on this green practice, especially as it relates to stormwater management, which is a big issue at airports. The CDA currently has 16 buildings with vegetated green roofs covering an area of almost nine acres, making it one of the largest concentrations of green roofs in the City of Chicago.

The list of airport LEED projects above shows the variety of facilities that can be considered for LEED certification – from the nearly 500,000-square-foot DHL facility to a control tower to a car rental facility. The facility types at an airport that can pursue LEED certification tend to deviate from the more familiar glass and steel office building designs that are more commonplace with LEED. This just illustrates that airports should not be reluctant to use LEED (or SAM) as a tool to achieve and promote their sustainability credentials.

Primera acted in CDA’s best interest for the promotion and incorporation of environmentally, financially, and socially sustainable elements for all new airport development projects. For the seven LEED projects above, Primera has been involved from the earliest stages as the main reviewer for all sustainability submittals per the CDA requirements. Sustainability requirements and expectations were typically discussed in the design kick-off meetings and reviewed at each project milestone. In addition, Primera assisted the CDA in completion of the owner’s LEED certification forms for most of these projects. In the case of the North Airport Traffic Control Tower, Primera also provided energy modeling services in support of the LEED energy efficiency prerequisites and credits (EA Prerequisite 2 and EA Credit 1).

LEED consulting is nothing new to Primera. We have completed 87 LEED projects and have 18 LEED Accredited Professionals on staff. Our widely varied expertise allows us to cover all disciplines – architecture, civil engineering, structural engineering, mechanical/electrical/plumbing engineering, fire protection, and energy commissioning – when it comes to your unique projects.

For additional information about our sustainability efforts in transportation facilities please contact John Antonoglu.

Primera LEEDs the Way at the CDA

For over 15 years, Primera has helped the Chicago Department of Aviation improve their sustainability efforts and have helped them achieve LEED certification for a number of their projects.