Taking flight with the world’s largest LEED project, Istanbul Airport

Yi Wen
July 20, 2020

Project size should never be a barrier to sustainability. When Istanbul Airport first broke ground in Turkey in 2014, its leadership team took this idea to heart. The airport, which hosts flights to more than 300 destinations and which has capacity to hosts 90 million passengers annually, was designed from the start to promote the safety, health and wellbeing of its visitors and staff, and to amplify Turkey’s commitment to sustainable development.

Their determination didn’t stop with 2014’s plans. The new terminal building, which plays host to 1.4 million square meters of space, recently achieved LEED Gold certification under LEED for Building Design and Construction. By doing so, Istanbul Airport has claimed the record for the world’s largest LEED building project, proving that with careful planning, no space is too large –or small – to make a positive, sustainable impact on the planet.

“This good news has brightened up our day in these unprecedented times of the world’s fight against COVID-19,” said Kadri Samsunlu, CEO and Director General at İGA Airport Operation Inc. “We consider compliance with sustainability principles as the most important component of our corporate culture. By this award, iGA has crowned the Turkish aviation industry with yet another achievement. Istanbul Airport has always been and will always be the airport of new grounds and top ranks. We are so proud to have succeeded in putting sustainability to the forefront in all steps we take, so that we, the world, the future, the environment can reach a sustainable level of self-sufficiency.”

Istanbul Airport’s achievements are a tribute to the effort, expertise and attention of the project team and Sustainability and Environment department. Each step of the process was monitored to align with iGA’s sustainable development targets, including careful introductory audits on the ecological, economic and social impacts of the project before construction began.

Once construction had begun, LEED was prioritized as the project framework for the terminal and its connected auxiliary, private and public structures. A team of experts were brought on to ensure best practices were applied throughout, including Altensis, a LEED Proven Provider and USGBC member since 2008. Altensis supported the management and integration of sustainability into different aspects of the project, monitoring the progress and LEED credit application on-site through the utilization of the BIM (Building Information Modeling) technology.

By achieving LEED Gold certification, the project’s efficiencies lead to significant savings, including a 23% reduction in energy consumption, 57% reduction in total building water consumption, and 100% reuse of its waste water for irrigation. In terms of indoor environment quality, the project's mechanical ventilation AHUs are 30% above the minimum required by ASHRAE Standard 62.1-2007. More than 75% of its construction waste was either reduced, reused or recycled during the construction process.

“Airports are no longer just transportation hubs, but a place for people to connect and be inspired – a reflection of the city where they are arriving. As the entry point into Turkey, the Istanbul Airport terminal will be the first impression for the millions of passengers traveling through its gates every year,” noted Mahesh Ramanujam, President and CEO of USGBC and GBCI. “And as the largest LEED certified building in the world, it proves that no matter the size or unique considerations of a project, it can be a healthy, sustainable and high performing place when designed thoughtfully."