Establish On-Site Utilities to Secure Critical Services

Establish On-Site Utilities to Secure Critical Services

By James Rosick, PE, LEED AP, and Tim Burkhalter, PE, CEM, LEED AP BD+C

Like most hospitals and universities, a modern-commercial airport is a campus growing to meet its customer needs for facilities and support systems. And such growth requires master planning and infrastructure to provide the most efficient use of capital.

As in other campus environments, an airport consists of many buildings with diverse utility needs and use patterns. Air traffic control towers, airfield lighting, baggage handling and screening, terminal security, and passenger comfort are critical services not only for the business operations of the airport but also for the security of the community and national aviation system. An airport campus' supply of electricity, thermal energy, IT and specialized aviation power supplies (i.e. 400 Hz) should be reliable, redundant and cost-efficient.

Meeting current and future energy needs is a necessary component of an airport's mission and should be included in the airport's master planning process.

Campus owners who develop a comprehensive energy master plan (CEMP), either concurrent with a traditional facilities master plan or as an independent effort, understand the effects of setting energy goals and growing their facilities.

While reliability and redundancy in airport utility systems is mandatory for airport operations, consideration and planning of future capacity and long-term costs is needed to achieve the airport's business plan. Airport utilities can consist of electrical distribution, emergency generation, chilled water, steam (or hot water), potable water, sewer, natural gas, combined heat and power (CHP), and any other utility needed to maintain operations. Because such utilities often are dependent upon each other, planning them together in a CEMP helps minimize overall campus utility life cycle costs.

A campus CEMP identifies many energy trends, including an industry progression toward combined heat and power (CHP), also known as cogeneration. In some regions of the U.S., CHP can cost-effectively meet 100 percent of a facility's day-to-day electric and thermal needs, while satisfying all or a portion of backup generation requirements. A viable airport campus requires backup power, district heating, district cooling and low energy consumption.

An experienced utility master planner can determine if an investment in CHP can offset other costs and achieve low life cycle costs for the future. Consider an example where an airport may need to upgrade or replace its emergency power generation systems: Careful planning may result in
an opportunity to combine the capital expenditure for emergency power with improvements in the thermal utilities via implementation of CHP.

Determining utility needs for the foreseeable future of your airport, a CEMP involves conducting a cost-benefit analysis that considers performance of existing equipment, alternative energy sources, energy and water conservation, demand-side management, and infrastructure optimization to reduce environmental impact and operating costs. A CEMP also maintains high-quality, safe and - most important - reliable energy delivery. With more than 30 CEMPs developed in the past decade for clients including airports, universities, and hospitals, the Burns & McDonnell master planning team works to optimize future energy infrastructure investment.

James A. Rosick, PE, LEED AP, is a regional manager in the Aviation Group, and Timothy Burkhalter, PE, CEM, LEED AP BD+C, is a business development manager at Burns & McDonnell.


A comprehensive energy master plan (CEMP) can outline:

  • Facility energy-reduction strategies
  • Development of renewable energy programs
  • Development of on-site power systems (CHP/cogeneration)

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