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Grand Forks airport finds going green pays off

GRAND FORKS — The Byron L. Dorgan Terminal in Grand Forks has joined a handful of buildings in the city and international airport terminals nationwide in being recognized for energy efficiency.

The terminal at the Grand Forks International Airport was recently LEED-certified at the silver level by the U.S. Green Building Council. LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.

“It’s a commitment from us that we would meet a more energy-efficient standard,” said airport Executive Director Patrick Dame. The terminal was designed by JLG Architects.

Energy use has come in 15.7 percent below national benchmarks for airports of a similar size in a similar climate. That’s meant $14,000 per year in savings, mostly thanks to a geothermal system installed under the parking lot that makes use of steady temperature deep underground to help heat and cool the terminal.

The terminal also uses 43 percent less water, or 83,000 gallons a year, than national benchmarks.

The building opened in 2011, replacing the 47-year-old terminal at the airport that went through several renovations.

City goals

City Council President Hal Gershman, who also sits on the Regional Airport Authority, said the terminal’s construction didn’t go over budget.

“We were able to find savings in other areas to offset some of the upfront costs,” Gershman said. “But as time goes on, we have a constant benefit of being greener as far as costs go.

“Going green did not break our budget at all,” he added.

The city of Grand Forks has been working toward more energy efficiency, and staff is planning several “relatively extensive” lighting projects in several city buildings, said the city’s sustainability coordinator, Debra Pflughoeft-Hassett.

“The big push for sustainability in Grand Forks is for us as city government to make our buildings more energy efficient,” she said.

While the airport is technically owned by the airport authority, Gershman said City Council members recommended several improvements to the terminal’s design. That included the geothermal system.

“The relationship the authority has with city government is very close,” Gershman said.

The building is one of only five international terminals in the country to receive a LEED certification, according to the airport. Grand Forks is home to four LEED-certified buildings, including the Gorecki Alumni Center at the University of North Dakota.

John Hageman

John Hageman covers North Dakota politics from the Forum News Service bureau in Bismarck. He attended the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities, where he studied journalism and political science, and he previously worked at the Grand Forks Herald and Bemidji Pioneer.  

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