The Breathable Airport, Part 3: Beyond

This is the third and final article in a three-part series on how we can utilize the latest advancements and knowledge of ecosystems, mechanical and ventilation systems and material science to finally enable the design of a “breathable” airport that is capable of cleaning the air and enabling natural ventilation for the well-being of its users.

The NOW and NEXT strategies previously described can be implemented into existing infrastructure, expanded into large scale renovations or implemented into the design process for new additions such as concourse expansions or new concourse construction.  The BEYOND category builds on those strategies by integrating large-scale interior and exterior solutions for new, ground-up construction.  These concepts aim to impact both the airport and the surrounding community. The timeline for this category is 30 years from now and beyond.

The Beyond Impact

The Future Airport Prototype will attempt to provide clean air equally and holistically throughout the interior and exterior of the airport by integrating multiple strategies into one prototype.  It reimagines the spatial layout by organizing spaces into a ring centered around a courtyard and smog tower.  A hybrid of biological air purification strategies and mechanical solutions, with heavier reliance on the former, provides an equal distribution of clean air.

An Air Traffic Smog Tower located in the center of the courtyard of the central ring begins the air cleaning process by pulling in polluted air at the top of the tower and distributing clean area at the base to the surrounding courtyard. Operable walls at levels 2 and 3 provide an opportunity for natural cross ventilation through the building during warmer months.  To continue the biophilic elements inside the building, bio gardens create an inner spine with a park-like atmosphere, surrounded by holdrooms and concessions.

The BEYOND solution(s) take a whole-building approach to embracing biological-based systems at the dominant mitigation strategy for poor air quality while letting technology continue to perform as needed. In turn, the approach begins to change the typology of an airport as it must facilitate air circulation through the building through a natural environment and rely on passive strategies for air movement.

The Path Forward

The aviation industry has recently adopted a climate goal of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. Embracing out-of-the-box thinking as it pertains to airport operations and infrastructure will play a major role in reaching this goal. The scalable solutions we have outlined in this three-part series allow facilities to begin implementing green initiatives into existing infrastructure while encouraging them to visualize a greater impact for future building projects which benefit the employees, the passengers and the community.

This project was completed as a part of HKS’ Research Incubator program. This annual initiative empowers practitioners throughout the firm to invest focused time and energy into exploring topics that encourage innovation and a culture of curiosity. To learn more about this program, please contact us at [email protected].