Come Fly With Me: Denver International Airport

Last month, Denver International Airport announced an estimated $900-million expansion to its main terminal. The first phase of this expansion, estimated at $650 million, includes a 500-room Westin Hotel, an RTD FasTracks commuter rail station and signature bridge and plaza designed by Santiago Calatrava.

The South Terminal Redevelopment program is the first upgrade to the airport since it opened in 1995 and will complete the original airport plans, which included an onsite hotel and a train station for a link to downtown Denver. The bridge and hotel are expected to complete in 2013, with the train station completing two years later and commuter-rail service beginning in 2016.

Calatrava is collaborating with Parsons Transportation Group’s Denver office; Gensler, the hotel architect; Mortenson Construction; and Kiewit.

A second phase of the redevelopment, which includes a new parking structure and renovations to the Jeppesen Terminal Great Hall, has been planned but not yet approved by the airport. It will add $250 million to the cost of the redevelopment, bringing the entire project to an estimated $900 million.

“We are committed to fiscal responsibility for this project,” says Kim Day, Denver manager of aviation. “We will keep a close eye on costs and we will not move forward with any project that does not make good financial sense.”

The program will be primarily financed by General Airport Revenue Bonds, which will be repaid from airport revenues. “In addition, no taxpayer or General Fund dollars will be used to complete any of the projects in the [program],” adds Day.

Additional construction at the airport includes the addition of a 1.6 MW solar photovoltaic array that will power the airport’s fuel storage and distribution facilities. It is expected to help DIA offset the environmental and monetary costs of these facilities, generating approximately 2.5-million kw hours of clean electricity in the first year of operation and approximately 46-million kw hours during the system’s lifetime.

MP2 Capital, which helped finance the project through a private-public partnership, says it is the largest solar power plant completed to date under the Obama administration’s grant initiative, the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act 1603.

Green River: Firms Invest in Sustainable Research and Processes

As firms have been forced to get leaner during this recession, many of them have also found ways to get smarter, including investments in new industry research and processes.

One of those that has gotten some national attention lately is biomimicry. The simple, core principle of biomimicry is that in order to be more sustainable, designers should mimic nature.

But don’t expect to drive to a nearby city to see construction of a completely biomimetic building any time in the near future. Such a structure would be completely made of locally available materials and energy sources. There would be no toxins in the building or any of the building materials, and the structure would be inspired by the local biology.

No such buildings exist—yet. But biomimicry is being embraced by some as a challenge to push toward a new way of viewing construction.

The closest thing in Denver to that goal is the country’s first net-zero-energy building, the Research Support Facilities campus in Golden, which showcases a live example of its research, with many of its technologies in practice. It also will have a model for future sustainable office buildings.

At approximately 220,000 sq ft, NREL’s new three-story building, which opens this month, includes two long wings, connected at the middle by a lobby and conference area, and will eventually have more than 700 employees working in it.

Requirements for the building include LEED-Platinum certification leading to net-zero operation; a demonstration of active alternative energy technologies; and serving as a model for competitive, high-performance commercial buildings for the nation’s design, construction, operation and financing communities.

It is, in short, a living laboratory for net-zero-energy projects.

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