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Michigan’s First ‘Green’ Airport Opens In Waterford

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The interior of the new Oakland County International Airport, featuring a stunt biplane and a "living wall" air cleaning system watered by stored rain runoff.

The interior of the new Oakland County International Airport, featuring a stunt biplane and a “living wall” air cleaning system watered by stored rain runoff.

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WATERFORD TOWNSHIP (WWJ) — Federal, state and Oakland County officials dedicated Michigan’s first-ever green airport terminal Tuesday in Waterford Township.

More than 200 people attended the opening of the $7.5 million, 15,000-square-foot Oakland County International Airport, touring the building after dignitaries led by county executive L. Brooks Patterson cut the ribbon.

“This terminal is the gateway to Oakland County,” Patterson said. “There’s a wow factor about the terminal that will give travelers a positive impression of our region.”

Or as J. David VanderVeen, director of Oakland County central services put it, “a mile of road will take you a mile. A mile of runway will take you to the world.”

Oakland County International is already Michigan’s second-busiest airport, behind only Detroit Metro, and the world’s 12th busiest general aviation airport. Literally hundreds of corporate and freight planes call the airport home, and Patterson said every single company on the Fortune 500 will pass through the airport in one way or another over the course of a year.

Now, the airport has a terminal building to match those gaudy statistics. From the “living wall” air cleaning system — a wall of tropical plants watered by stored rainwater — at the entrance, to the state-of-the-art geothermal cooling and heating system in the kitchen-clean basement boiler room, the terminal is a marvel of modern energy efficiency and comfortable, user-friendly architectural design. The geothermal system alone will cut the airport’s heating and cooling costs by more than 50 percent, Patterson said.

The airport also has 15 percent of its electricity generated from renewable sources — a solar array on the roof and three 1,200-watt Windspire vertical axis wind turbines outside, manufactured in Michigan and sold by SolarWorks of Whitmore Lake.

Other green touches include a solar water heating system, highly efficient flourescent and LED lighting, electric car charging stations in the parking lot, the use of recycled construction materials and the recycling of used construction materials, low volatile-organic-compound emitting paint, carpet, adhesives and wood products, and the construction of rain gardens and bioswales to allow rain runoff to re-enter the groundwater rather than being directed to the sewer system.

State transportation director Kirk T. Steudle called the terminal “eco-friendly, the first truly green terminal in Michigan. This project is applying for LEED Gold certification, which would make it the first general aviation terminal in the state to attain this status.”

Hanging in the main atrium in the airport is a Pitts Special biplane once flown by Oakland County stunt pilot Henry A. Haigh II, on loan from the Kalamazoo Air Zoo. The airport also makes prominent display of its original charter — the nation’s first airport certificate dating back to February 1930 — and a document commemorating the visit of Michigan’s first air tour at what was then Pontiac Municipal Airport, dating back to 1929 and signed by Orville Wright.

The terminal also features an expanded U.S. Customs area capable of handling 70 passengers per flight, up from 20 in the old office, and which includes interrogation areas and holding cells.

Finally, there’s an outdoor area for families to watch aircraft land and take off, and a conference center with a catering kitchen.

The public’s first chance to view the terminal will be from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 28 at the annual OCIA Open House and Air Show. Featured aircraft will include the Scream’n Rebel Airshow Team, a North American B-25 Mitchell bomber, a B-17 Flying Fortress, and an A-10 Thunderbolt II, among others. There will also be a pancake breakfast from 7 to 11 a.m. and family attractions such as bounce houses. For more information, visit www.airfairocia.org.

The project has been under way since the tear-down of the old terminal in early 2010. It was funded by Federal Aviation Administration and Department of Energy grants, a Michigan Department of Transportation – Bureau of Aeronautics grant, and airport user fees. The new terminal was completed on time and within budget.

The project team included architects Neumann/Smith Architecture of Southfield; civil engineers Anderson, Eckstein & Westrick Inc. of Shelby Township and Peckham Engineering of Traverse City; construction managers Frank Rewold and Son Inc. of Rochester; structural engineer Desai/Nasr Consulting Engineers of West Bloomfield Township; mechanical and electrical engineer Peter Basso Associates Inc. of Troy; landscape architect Grissim Metz Andriese Associates of Northville; furnishings from Airea, Farmington Hills. Another 29 companies, most from southeast Michigan, acted as subcontractors.

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