First Go Green Behind the Scenes Tour takes a flying visit to Bristol Airport

Published on by Go Green.

The rainy weather did not stop the first, packed out tour in the Go Green calendar. Environment Manager Melanie King led us around Bristol Airport and set the bar high for future tours.

Image by Go Green

As a major part of Bristol’s transport infrastructure we were intrigued to have behind the scenes access to see and hear for ourselves what the airport is doing to Go Green.  We ventured to the old terminal, which is now the administration building, for tea and coffee and Melanie’s introductory talk, then moved onto the old control tower and saw planes taxi by to take off. We then went to the current terminal and later huddled around the bat hotel and air quality station.

Image by Go Green

There were plenty of eager questions, happily answered in detail by our hosts who included a member of the terminal engineering team, Dean Webber who provided us with comprehensive information about how recent upgrades to the equipment and how they manage it has helped them to make substantial energy savings. It was great to hear attendees from different businesses chatting about their Go Green Action Plans and sharing tips as we progressed through the tour.

Bristol Airport has approx. 250 staff and serves the South West and South Wales. Last year it saw 6.3 million visitors to the site that was originally only built for a capacity of 2 million. Over the last few years the facilities have been increased and the terminal  is currently being extended. The airport has an Environmental Policy  and works to achieve a balance of the social benefits and environmental impacts of the site. The key impacts they have identified are: noise, air emissions, potential pollution from chemicals used for de-icing and fire-fighting foam, waste and visual impact on the surrounding rural area. The impacts are controlled through a range of mechanisms and procedures.

 Top tips we picked up that are transferable to many businesses:

1. Collaboration is key – with so many airline operators and businesses working out of the terminal, communication is a challenge for the airport, but quarterly meetings with airlines are a good opportunity to raise sustainability issues. The airlines are keen to engage because the energy saving initiatives save them money and fuel. For instance as we stood in the old control tower, watching planes taxi to the runway, we learnt that when on the stands airlines turn off the main engines but need power for cleaning. This used to be powered by Auxiliary Power Units (APU) which are inefficient, so instead aircraft can plug into the biodiesel generators or fixed electrical ground power.

2. Competition can be beneficial – the airport has league tables of airlines’ noise production and they all want to be at the top to show they produce the least noise, helping to reduce overall impact.

3. Big energy savings can be made from installing a Building Management System (BMS) – the airport has made impressive savings, especially in light of the site expansion and growth of visitor numbers. Savings are largely down to installation of a Snieder BMS, variable speed drives, numerous movement, light and temperature sensors and time clocks on equipment (which do not require re-setting in a power cut). The BMS even alerts staff via email and text if there are problems and when filters need replacing, and payback is just 18 months – 2 years.

4. LED lights may cost more to purchase upfront but have large savings in the medium to long term – Street and indoor lighting as well as signage is now serviced by ultra efficient LEDs (light-emitting diodes), and advertising light boxes with LEDs have a movement sensor that is triggered and lights up when a person walks nearby. As well as saving energy this has the added benefit of drawing more attention to the advert. Airfield LED lighting was recently approved by the Civil Aviation Authority. This has significantly reduced the manpower required to replace used bulbs, as LEDs have a much longer lifespan than traditional bulbs, but has had the unexpected side effect of requiring snow to be cleared off the lights in snowy weather as the old lights used to melt the snow away! (LEDs are so efficient that they emit almost no heat). The airport has found overall that installing LEDs has a pay-back time of approx. 18 months – 2 years.

5. Using energy in a responsive way makes large energy savings– the airport installed air conditioning in the IT server room so that the building cooling system did not have to be on all the time just to cool the computers. Walkways are the only areas lit at night for the cleaners, and the air handling units are ramped down at quieter times of day. Revolving doors in the departures hall that were pushing out warm air were replaced by sliding doors and a warm air curtain. Baggage handling is run using sensors so the motors are no longer running all the time.

Many thanks to the Bristol Airport team for such an informative tour. If your business has experiences to share make sure you sign up to Go Green, create your Action Plan and once you have completed one action in each pillar, you can apply to move on to the Prove It stage and lead tours yourself.

Do join us on the next behind the scenes tour, the Go Green team are always in attendance to answer questions, and we look forward to meeting you.

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