PORTLAND, Maine — Portland International Jetport and city officials Wednesday morning touted the facility’s LEED Gold certification for environmental friendliness as a milestone moment for Portland’s fledgling green building standards.

During a news conference held at the site, airport Director Paul Bradbury said the facility, which recently underwent a $77 million expansion, is only the second commercial airport in the country to receive the LEED Gold designation.

The acronymic LEED — Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design — program was established by the U.S. Green Building Council and is among the highest profile for such design and construction ranking programs in the nation.

Central to the airport’s certification was the installation of Maine’s largest geothermal heating and cooling system, consisting of 120 wells each 500 feet deep, built to absorb Earth’s heat in the winter and deposit it in the summer.

Bradbury said the system was funded in large part by a $3 million federal aviation grant which jetport officials learned they’d been awarded halfway through the construction process, forcing contractor Turner Construction to accommodate a change from the boiler systems previously in the designs.

“This LEED Gold [designation] never would have happened if it wasn’t for a team effort,” said City Councilor Ed Suslovic, chairman of the jetport project’s building committee, also pointing out the efforts of airport staff and design firm Gensler.

“Instead of burning fossil fuels to heat this facility, we’re saving 50,000 gallons of fuel oil annually,” Bradbury said. “At today’s prices, that results in $150,000 in savings each year. … And that number will go up.”

City officials who spoke Wednesday touted the certification as a highlight of the city’s nascent green building ordinance, which requires all major construction projects to achieve LEED certification.

Portland Mayor Michael Brennan said the jetport project proves “we can have a building that’s LEED certified and energy efficient, but that’s also attractive.”

Another component of the LEED program was the procurement of construction materials from within a 500-mile radius of the project. Bradbury pointed to the wooden beams overhead and the cement flooring underfoot as examples of materials bought from Maine providers. Project designers Wednesday said about $10 million was spent in the region for materials, while an average of 100 workers were employed throughout its two-year cycle.

Bradbury noted the airport in general has an $860 million annual economic effect on the area, due to the 1,100 direct and indirect jobs tied to the facility and the 1.8 million passengers who travel through the facility.

“By using local and regional building materials — a key tenet in the LEED certification program — the jetport provided an important boost to the Maine economy,” said Katye Charette, executive director of the Maine chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council, during the morning news conference.

Others on hand for the event Wednesday were Portland City Manager Mark Rees, representatives of the offices of U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree and Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe and city councilors Cheryl Leeman and David Marshall. Marshall is the chairman of the council’s Transportation and Sustainability Committee, while Leeman served on the airport’s original master planning committee.

Seth Koenig

Seth has nearly a decade of professional journalism experience and writes about the greater Portland region.