Vancouver Airport Authority vice president of engineering and environment Don Ehrenholz was the lunch speaker at the Association of Consulting Engineering Companies (BC) Transportation Conference, held in downtown Vancouver on January 26.
Vancouver International Airport (YVR) is the second busiest airport in Canada, and new services were added last year to meet demand, Ehrenholz said.
The goals, he said, include creating a world-class connecting hub and leading in sustainability. Over the previous year, he said, 80,000 people were getting on and off planes every day, with over 100,000 pieces of luggage handled.
Completed projects at YVR include the Airside Operations Building, which is "as sustainable as we could get," he said, and works off geothermal power.
The new high speed baggage backbone connects six different baggage systems together into a single system, which uses software that will eventually track each bag.
Ehrenholz said YVR replaced and repaved a number of their taxiways, and put in the first half of a new runway and safety area on the south runway. The north runway will get a similar upgrade next year, and Ehrenholz estimated that project will take three years to complete.
LED lighting will also be installed at the airport, which cuts down on light pollution and saves on energy costs.
Currently YVR is in its third phase of consultation for their plans for the future of the airport (dubbed YVR 2037), and Ehrenholz emphasized the importance of anticipating growth while still remaining sustainable.
Two possible projects are a foreshore runway, which would stretch three kilometres into the Georgia Straight, along with a Close-In South Parallel Runway.
The north runway would have less of an impact on the surrounding community and has more room, but is a bigger engineering challenge than the southern runway.
Airside pavement surfaces will have to be built over the next 20 years, with new runways and safety areas as well as aircraft parking spots and areas designated for cargo aircraft.
A north-south taxiway is also planned with will be built over an existing roadway, which Ehrenholz termed a "challenge for our engineers."
The airport is also looking to improve the road and transit network but "we'll have to get creative" and work closely Translink and other stakeholders, he said.
YVR has also been working on designs for expansion of the terminal, he said, but Ehrenholz said it makes more sense to add incremental capacity as needed.
The path chosen was an expanded centre design, with added gates at different terminals, rather than adding a separate terminal somewhere else on the island.
A new utility plant is also needed to heat and cool the terminal, Ehrenholz said, and plans are currently in place to go forward with a plant for heating, cooling, backup generation and a data centre, with completion by 2021.
A rainwater capture system will also be installed in parkades in order to meet sustainability goals, along with emergency water supply in case of earthquakes and other disasters.
The largest project, Ehrenholz said, is expansion of the international wing of the terminal. Preliminary design has begun, he said, and "we need to get it done before we reach capacity."
The first phase of this expansion must be complete by 2021, because that is when the airport will reach capacity required for the added space, Ehrenholz said.