Alicia Silva
Founder and Director General
Revitaliza Consultores

Airports Commit to Sustainability

Thu, 12/01/2016 - 19:25

The airport industry in Mexico is demonstrating a commitment to the future. NAICM and the new terminal at Cancun International Airport (AIC) will sport green credentials through their hard work to acquire certifications such as LEED.

International certifications can help advance sustainability because they promote the creation of inclusive and well- planned structures such as airports, says Alicia Silva, Founder and Director General of Revitaliza Consultores, a consultancy specializing in LEED certification and energy efficiency in buildings. It is involved with the construction of Terminal 4 at Cancun’s airport, as well as facilities for Avianca in Medellin, Colombia and the upcoming aerospace laboratory at Chihuahua Autonomous University (UACh).

“Trying to become certified makes companies go into every detail of a project from the beginning and reduces the number of changes during the construction process,” says Silva. “Mistakes during the construction of an airport generate the biggest costs in infrastructure while sustainable construction also requires an integrated and preventative design.”

It also encourages all participants to come together at the start, providing the potential to avoid future problems such as community protests or blockades.

Among the challenges firms like Revitaliza Consultores face is the permissive culture prevalent in Mexico. Silva cites the example of lead-based paint. Mexican companies still use the product because regulations that prohibit it are taken too lightly, she says. This paint was banned in Europe in 1954 and in 1974 in the US. The product is also banned in Mexico but the regulations are not strongly enforced. “People do not understand that we need to get rid of heavy metals that damage our health and which can cause cancer,” says Silva. “Many manufacturers will reconsider the materials they use after seeing why sustainability and safety are such important global trends.”

Institutions also are realizing that trying to modify or lower international standards has a negative impact on Mexico’s development, according to Silva. “Overcoming the public’s ignorance regarding the overall picture of sustainability and its benefits is a challenge.”

Many companies believe that sustainability can inflate their construction budget up to 30 percent but Revitaliza Consultores tries to show these businesses that it does not necessarily have to be this way. “In our experience sustainability may initially cost 5 to 6 percent more but it brings an abundance of added value to construction projects,” Silva says. “The additional investment can be recovered in less than five years.” It is easier to persuade companies to invest in sustainability when the numbers are explained in terms of economic benefits.

In the airport sector, Mexico has several advantages, including its central location as connectivity is of tremendous importance to this industry. “Moreover, the stability of the country and its commitment to aviation means that Mexico has become one of the most important destinations for air travel from the US and Canada,” says Silva. Traffic from the US to Mexico City accounted for over 7.012 million passengers in 2015, according to the US National Travel & Tourism Office, up 10.3 percent from the year before.

Silva sees the airport industry as a leader that is setting an example in the sustainability realm. “NAICM is the most important infrastructure project of the upcoming decade. We competed against national and international companies from Germany and the US to be part of the project.”

According to Obras magazine, NAICM is expected to be the most sustainable airport in the world under its platinum LEED certification. Revitaliza Consultores works to assure that the engineering of the project maintains high standards, that the staff is well trained and understands how to install equipment and manage the operating process. “These projects are complex and holding them to a high standard makes them easier to manage.”