Green Specs:

– Displacement ventilation

– Waste-heat capture and reuse

– Natural light via clerestory windows

– Daylight sensors

– Living wall with hydroponics

When South Africa native Rian Burger was finally granted permanent residency in Canada, after five long years of immigration woes, he had no idea where in the country he would live or work. But a previous trip to Canada and 20 years in South Africa’s commercial architecture industry left him with a few contacts he could reach out to. Before long, he was hired by Stantec, a global architecture and engineering firm headquartered in Edmonton, Alberta.

Because opportunities in South Africa were limited, Burger never dreamed he would end up designing airports, but today the senior associate works exclusively on aviation facilities. According to Burger, after more than six years, several major airport projects, and countless planning studies and alteration concepts, he knows more about airports than most people.

“I’m not an airplane nut—I can’t rattle off all the different aircraft models and their characteristics, but I did consider studying aeronautical engineering when I was at school,” Burger says. “I’ve learned that to be a good airport designer, you must understand what each decision will do to all the systems it affects, and the challenge is to discover the synergies that local conditions offer to create a smoothly functioning, yet delightful place [through which] people connect their journeys.”

Airports are incredibly complex structures, and because of technology and rapidly changing laws, they are also ever-evolving. Part of that evolution is a response to green design principles, and Stantec’s global footprint enables Burger to focus on sustainability in a way he’s not been able to before.

“South Africa is a developing Third World country, and sustainability was never on the table while I was there,” he says. “Before immigrating to Canada, I actually tried to generate sustainability-related work, but it was just not important enough in that environment.” Likewise, airports haven’t been known as green building hubs—until now. “Airports were slow in getting on the sustainability bandwagon. But this has changed, and many are now doing cutting-edge work,” he says. “The challenge for airports is existing building stock and infrastructure that are energy hogs. It is easy to talk about the one percent of new construction that is green, but what about the existing 99 percent that is terrible?”

The Edmonton airport features a displacement ventilation system, fed by under-floor ducting. This conditions the air in the zone where people are, rather than the high-volume space above.

Burger says the real problem, however, is ground transportation. Thousands of people drive to and from airports each day, and as this is compounded by aircraft emissions, airports find themselves in a “carbon sandwich,” with the public on one side and aircrafts on the other. The solution? Utilizing trains for short-distance travel and recommissioning existing airport structures.

Burger is currently based in Vancouver, an urban hub of the progressive Pacific Northwest—considered by many the heart of the sustainability movement. There, Burger has been able to immerse himself in sustainability and implement simple, organic, eco-conscious elements into major projects. His latest? Edmonton International Airport (EIA), which is currently undergoing an 18-gate terminal expansion.

EIA’s terminal expansion will utilize displacement ventilation, in part thanks to island-style custom-made displacement diffusers by EH Price. The ventilation system is a crucial part of the airport’s air-conditioning strategy; it enables the conditioning of air nearest to the floor, i.e. the air around the passengers. Burger says displacement ventilation is far more effective than overhead air distribution because less air is used. As a result, energy demand is further reduced.

“Airports were slow in getting on the sustainability bandwagon. But this has changed, and many are now doing cutting-edge work.” Rian Burger, Stantec

The energy consumption for heating EIA’s new terminal accounts for between 60 and 70 percent of the overall energy used to operate the base building mechanical system, and during the winter months, almost 50 percent of this energy is required to heat up the outdoor air due to the extreme cold (Edmonton has endured temperatures of minus 40 degrees Celsius). Burger employed today’s technology to capture any waste heat and reuse it. EIA’s air handlers are Haakon custom units with dual fans and heat-recovery wheels, the latter of which capture heat from exhaust air and put it back into intake air. In doing so, the energy required to condition outdoor air for ventilation is reduced significantly.

The lighting philosophy for the EIA project is becoming a common one: utilize as much daylight as possible through the use of clerestory windows and curtain walls in all the concourses, virtually eliminating the need for electric lighting on clear days. This is achieved using daylight sensors connected to a low-voltage lighting-control system that will turn the lighting on and off when the daylight contributions are acceptable for the airport operations. The lighting design balances operational needs with LEED and ASHRAE requirements, and in the end it achieved power densities significantly less than ASHRAE’s minimum standards. How? Through the careful placement of ceramic metal halide and T8 fluorescent lamps from Cooper Lighting.

Though he may not have envisioned himself becoming Stantec’s resident expert on airport design, Burger’s work is pushing the industry while respecting the realistic requirements of these sprawling, energy-intensive facilities. With any luck, Edmonton’s innovative features will inform airports around Canada and across the globe.

Edmonton International Airport’s 18-gate expansion is designed to maximize daylighting, obviating the need for artificial lighting on clear days.