How Colombia’s “golden” airport achieved LEED Platinum

Maria Alex Cardona

Feature image: The LEED Platinum El Dorado Airport. Photo courtesy of Opain.

Named for the 16th century myth of El Dorado, a mythical land of golden treasures, Colombia’s international airport is a 21st century leader in sustainability. The project in Bogotá, Colombia, is the world's first LEED Platinum airport terminal or concourse certified under LEED v4.1 for Operations and Maintenance.

A sustainability journey

The airport terminal was originally built in 1959 and then renovated in 2010—the start of its sustainability journey. Between the end of the renovation in 2010 and the LEED certification in 2021, the project team established a set of milestones and commitments. They began with a goal of net zero waste using a local standard, followed by a commitment to reducing CO2 emissions, along with goals for energy efficiency improvements to lighting and HVAC systems, and the addition of onsite renewable energy generation. Next, the team worked on responsible consumption and production within the airport as an economic ecosystem, aligned with the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goal 12.

All these efforts and milestones paved the way for a LEED Platinum certification. The focus on waste, carbon and resource efficiency aligned perfectly with the LEED goals. The project team’s final step was to focus on the human experience in the airport, ensuring a high level of health and safety through improvements to indoor environmental quality.

El Dorado’s success is notable not only for achieving LEED Platinum, but for the dedication and commitment to excellence and continuous improvement from the project team. The majority of projects in Latin America achieve LEED Gold certification, and El Dorado went above and beyond with Platinum.

An airport terminal lights against the twilight

The LEED Platinum El Dorado Airport. Photo courtesy of Opain.

LEED powered by Arc

Opain, the airport concessionary, found in Arc the tool that help them to administer and consolidate the data from energy and water consumptions, waste management and diversion, CO2 emissions tracked from transportation scope, and occupant satisfaction experiences. Prior to starting to track performance in Arc, Opain did not have the audits from these activities. Arc made visible what at the time was invisible for the team, from the operations perspective, and facilitated the path toward their major goal of pursuing LEED at the Platinum level.

During the process, LEED operations and maintenance strategies were developed to improve the sustainable performance of the project. Green cleaning manuals, sustainable purchasing, maintenance and renovations of sustainable facilities, and comprehensive pest management were implemented. The vast majority of changes did not represent costs for the operation of the airport.

Simultaneously, Opain made modifications to the lighting systems to reduce consumption through the renovation of LED lighting. Opain also proposed an energy efficiency project for the HVAC system and now maintains about 10% of its energy consumption with photovoltaic energy on-site. Last, the airport carries out advanced waste management strategies to promote the diversion of waste to landfill.

Health and safety

In 2021, Opain added equipment to measure the concentration of air pollutants, CO2 and total volatile organic compounds. The audits concluded that the CO2 concentrations promote the health and well-being of the occupants.

Andrés Ortega, general manager of El Dorado, said, "We are at a time when the planet needs a real contribution from companies, and it is precisely through the reduction of the carbon footprint and increasing efficiency. [This is] energy that we will be able to leave future generations [for] a better planet; this is our commitment from El Dorado. We are very proud to receive this certification, as it is part of the management we carry out on a daily basis to respond to the objectives of sustainable development.”

As Colombia’s largest international airport, this project serves as an inspiration to airports across Latin America and around the world.

Learn more about the project

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