Los Angeles: New Sustainability Plan for LAX

Written By: Alexandre B. Hedjazi & Ashley C. Pilipiszyn

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To round out our trio of global city airports, we visited the Sustainability Division of the Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA) Department for the City of Los Angeles, which manages the airport oversight and operations of Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). Out of all three airports we visited, LAX sure packs a punch, weighing in at nearly 75 million passengers serviced in 2015. Positioned as the 5th largest passenger airport in the world, LAX has a lot on its plate when it comes to making sure it delivers quality services to its clients and customers while striving to be a positive asset for the community.

We learned from our visit that LAWA is a global leader in airport sustainability and has made achievements in improving air and water quality, reducing noise impacts, and building green infrastructure that is held to the highest sustainability standards. Specifically, the Tom Bradley International terminal was recently renovated and achieved LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Silver certification and the new LAX Aircraft Rescue and Fire Fighting Station #80 received Gold certification.

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So how is sustainability addressed at LAX? Well, according to  LAWA, they define Sustainability (and measures their sustainable performance) as the Triple Bottom Line, consistent with the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) and the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), these are the Social, Economic, and Environmental impacts. What we discovered is that where LAX really shines is with regards to its work related to the Environment, especially as there is a massive push for sustainability by Mayor Eric Garcetti with the 2015 release of the LA pLAn, which is the city’s first sustainability agenda. Similar to the Geneva Airport, LAX’s top two priority areas within Environment are addressing noise mitigation and air pollution. For noise mitigation, LAX has created a live-streaming platform called WebTrack that tracks the flight activity in and out of LAX, along with information on each aircraft.

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Another exciting initiative we learned about that addresses all three pillars of sustainability is the Northside Plan, which an opportunity to transform approximately 340 acres of under-utilized land to better serve the Westchester and Playa del Rey communities, the people of Los Angeles, and LAX. Implementing a participative co-generation model, LAWA and the community have begun to collaborate on an updated plan to re-imagine the Northside parcels as a vibrant and sustainable center of employment, retail, restaurant, office, hotel, research and development, education, civic, airport support, recreation, and buffer uses.

Finally, LAWA has made great strides creating a successful wildlife and habitat conservation program that has resulted in the successful regeneration of the endangered El Segundo Blue Butterfly. In 1976, there were less than 500 El Segundo Blue Butterflies so encourage the butterfly’s comeback, and after careful study and consultation with environmental experts, LAWA created the Dunes Habitat Restoration Project in 1986 to focus on reintroducing and protecting the coastal buckwheat plant, the butterfly’s sole food source and near which it spends its entire life cycle. Today, the preserve is home again to more than 1,000 species of plants and animals, in addition to the El Segundo Blue Butterfly.

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As such a massive airport, LAWA and LAX have definitely been doing their part to be one of the most sustainable and environmentally-friendly global airports. Being able to see on the ground and speak with experts from the Sustainability Departments of the Abu Dhabi, Geneva and Los Angeles airports really gave us a crash course what it means to be innovative as a critical infrastructure and what role airports play within the overall urban strategy of a global city. It was clear to see that each airport we visited had its own areas of championship (technological, social and environmental) and we hope to see a sharing of best practices amongst these airports to be the most sustainable as possible by learning from one another!

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