Las Vegas Sun

March 4, 2024

Going Green:

Terminal 3 features energy-efficient technology


Steve Marcus

Terminal 3 at McCarran International Airport is shown under construction in this August 2010 file photo. The terminal is scheduled to open in summer 2012.

Going green is nothing new for McCarran International Airport.

But with the opening of its $2.4 billion Terminal 3, the airport has a chance to have a sustainable facility from the beginning.

It starts with energy efficiency in the Clark County Aviation Department’s electrical utility budget: $16.7 million systemwide in the 2009-10 fiscal year. Rate hikes approved by the Public Utilities Commission have meant commercial customers pay more and that makes energy efficiency a priority, airport officials said.

The investment in green features to make the building more energy efficient will cost $26.9 million with an anticipated annual utility cost reduction of $5.4 million. Based on today’s rates, it will take five years to recover that investment, Aviation Director Randall Walker said.

“It is something that makes sense,” Walker said of the airport’s long-standing push to be more sustainable. “We are not doing this for headlines. We have been doing this over time starting in the 1990s. It is a good business decision and the right thing to do. We are proud of the things we have done.”

The main terminal has used recycled carpet for years and the airport has a systemwide recycling program, Walker said. The main terminal has also gone to low-flow water fixtures in its restrooms as it has remodeled them, he said.

The airport has even removed the grass around Terminal 1, which Walker said has saved a lot more water than the low-flow fixtures.

Some features in Terminal 3 include glazing systems on windows to reduce the heat that enters the building and reflective surfaces on the roof to do the same. The windows are oriented to bring more sunlight into the building and reduce the need for artificial lighting.

The airport is building a one-megawatt solar plant on top of the Terminal 3 garage and installing mounting clips on the terminal rooftop for future solar panels.

“That will make it much easier to put solar panels on the roof,” Walker said. “We want to see how the economics work.”

The power generated from the solar facility will be used in the airport’s system and returned to the power grid. Solar usage has a 10-year payback, Walker said.

“We looked at solar in the late 1990s, and based on the technology back then it didn’t make economic sense,” Walker said.

Other green features include recycled zinc panels for the roof’s exterior and terrazzo flooring of recycled products.

“We have an opportunity to use new materials and concepts that we haven’t had a chance to use before,” Walker said. “Much more recycled materials are available today than in the last terminal.”

Terminal 3 will have low-energy-use lights, which have long been in place at the other terminals.

The airport has taken steps to improve the building efficiency in existing facilities. It has improved control over the air handlers that mix the inside and outside air within the terminals. New computers have created the ability to analyze which chillers are most or least efficient within the central utility plant to reduce energy costs, Walker said.

“The expensive time for example is 7 p.m. and the rate structure falls after that. If we turn it on 15 minutes before that, it is not optimal. The computer monitors the temperature and tries to reduce energy costs,” Walker said.

The airport estimates its environmentally friendly program would reduce carbon emissions by about 24,818 metric tons a year, which is equal to emissions produced by 4,642 automobiles.

The airport has long operated alternative fuel vehicles. When it opened its rental car facility, it went from a system in which each rental car company ran its own shuttle to a common system to reduce bus trips, Walker said.

The new terminal has space available so the Monorail can serve it if the service is extended to the airport.

Terminal 3, which is nearly 75 percent complete, will open in summer 2012. It spans nearly 2 million square feet and is more than three stories. The main terminal is one-half mile in length and will include 14 gates.

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