Should an airport be certified LEED Platinum?

Airport canopy
© San Diego International Airport

San Diego International Airport has just achieved LEED Platinum, the highest certification attainable. The airport, also known as Lindbergh Field, has it all: a megawatt of solar power, water and energy conservation measures, sophisticated climate and energy controls, a reflective roof, and " improved indoor environmental quality through the use of low volatile organic compound adhesives, sealants, paints and coatings."

In the press release, the project director calls it "the poster child for sustainability and environmental stewardship."

© San Diego International Airport

Last year it also moved almost 18 million passengers and 162,353 tons of freight averaging 515 flights in and out per day, generating very roughly 20 million tons of carbon dioxide in the process, along with nitrous oxides, sulphates and soot. According to the David Suzuki Foundation,

Scientific studies have shown that these high-altitude emissions have a more harmful climate impact because they trigger a series of chemical reactions and atmospheric effects that have a net warming effect. The IPCC, for example, has estimated that the climate impact of aircraft is two to four times greater than the effect of their carbon dioxide emissions alone.

I am loath to criticize LEED these days, it has enough trouble with the plastic people. San Diego Airport is a better, greener place because of LEED, but calling an airport green is a contradiction in terms. Perhaps for the Platinum label of LEED there should be a question about the use, and withhold it from those that are laughably inappropriate.

We've got LEED spaceports and LEED parking garages and LEED monster homes and none of them can in anyone's wildest imagination be called green because of what they do. The use matters.

Tags: Green Building | LEED