December 7, 2007

Kuujjuaq set to unveil eco-friendly air terminal

“Green” engineering fights ­climate change by keeping ground frozen under building


KUUJJUAQ - Kuujjuaq airport's stunning new $9-million passenger terminal is set to open Dec. 15, if the final inspection and delivery schedule holds.

The terminal building is full of light thanks to its windows, steel beams and sleek, reflective surfaces.

Workers add finishing touches to the terminal building, which received final inspection last week.

But, underneath the gloss lies a solid state-of-the-art technology meant to withstand Kuujjuaq's extreme weather and fight climate change by conserving energy.

At 13,000 square feet, the new building is three times larger than the current terminal and many times more energy-efficient, according to Fournier, Gersovitz, Moss and Associates, the architectural firm that designed the terminal to be a "green" structure from the inside out.

The outside of the terminal features an entrance canopy formed from a series of pipes called thermo-siphons. In the summer the pipes help keep the ground frozen under the terminal.

To reduce the use of electricity, all terminal rooms have natural lighting, even those in the middle of the building. Solar panels on the south and southwest outer walls store energy from the sun for power and preheat air for the ventilation system. As well, there's a reflective roof to deflect heat and opening windows for ventilation during the warmer months.

To conserve water, the men's washrooms feature waterless urinals.

New arrivals to Kuujjuaq are expected to walk through these doors, into the new terminal, later this month or early in the new year.

The airport was built with some recycled materials, such as the duff-coloured flooring.

The terminal's walls and counters are covered with bamboo, a fast-growing replacement for hardwood species from equatorial rain forests.

The terminal's exterior, wrapped in blue metal, features airtight walls and double vestibules at all entrances to hold heat during the winter.

Space is also set aside to collect and store recyclables in the terminal, with recycling bins to be installed early in 2008.

Due to these efforts to trim energy use and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the terminal will earn a silver rating from the Canada Green Building Council.

The council's "Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design" certification sets standards for environmentally sustainable construction. These so-called "green" building standards help meet national targets for cuts to greenhouse gas emissions.

Kuujjuaq’s new airport features an entrance canopy formed from a series of pipes called thermosiphons, which regulate the temperature under the building to prevent permafrost from melting.

The terminal has also won an award of excellence in the green building category from the Canadian Institute of Steel Construction for its "straightforward answer to the northern environment and Inuit culture, showing an exceptional level of multidisciplinary integration."

The long, narrow shape of the new terminal, which lies flat on the ground, is intended to reflect Inuit culture by evoking the shape of a kayak.

Its expanded, raised skylight rises up from the terminal's roof like the cockpit of the kayak, said architect Alain Fournier, who also designed the distinctive canary-yellow passenger terminal at Iqaluit's airport.

Overall, the passenger terminal in Kuujjuaq includes ample space for airline counters, baggage handling rooms, security checks and a gift and snack shop.

The bigger terminal should better cope with increasing air traffic to Kuujjuaq, which handles about 12,000 passengers annually.