Sustainability is a subject with which the aviation industry is already deeply familiar, airports in particular. In Europe alone, hundreds of airports have committed to reach net zero by 2050 or earlier, with some particularly ambitious operators pledging to hit that target within the next two years
Sustainability is also a very broad area, one in which operators can employ a number of different strategies when seeking to reduce their environmental footprint. As a result, airport procurement teams are now expected to have a firm grasp on the fundamentals of sustainability across everything from green building design through to water conservation and waste management.
Lighting – which some sources suggest accounts for around 15% of an airport’s total electricity use – is another key focal point. In addition to interior lighting, of course, and external areas such as car parks, airports also have to account for the mission-critical concern that is an apron floodlighting system .
Apron lighting can be a complex area, and one in which procurement professionals can benefit from a clear understanding of the nuances of modern lighting systems. That’s why, in this blog, we will explore five of the key sustainability issues that procurement teams need to take into account when evaluating proposals for a new ALS.
1. Energy efficiency
Of all the issues that a procurement team should consider when weighing up a lighting provider’s sustainability credentials, the energy efficiency of its system is arguably the most important. Simply, the more energy-efficient that an apron floodlighting system is, the less power it consumes and the better for the environment it tends to be.
Today, most apron floodlighting system systems employ one of two different types of technology: high-intensity discharge (HID) or light-emitting diode (LED). Of the two, LEDs are by far the most efficient, converting much more of the power they receive directly into light. Broadly speaking, a high-quality LED system uses just 50% of the power that a HID system does to produce the same amount of light on the target area.
One of the other key differences between HID- and LED-based lighting systems is that the latter can also be dimmed. While this is a technical impossibility for HID systems due to the nature of their design, it means that LED lights can be dipped to a lower power setting when parts of the apron are not in use.
Finally, while the resultant reduction in carbon emissions is the clear priority from a sustainability perspective, it should also be remembered that their lower power consumption also makes LED lighting systems considerably cheaper to run as well. This can translate into cost savings that operators can then reallocate towards other sustainability initiatives.
2. Integration with renewable energy sources
In addition to the amount of power that an apron floodlighting system uses, another energy-related issue to be mindful of is the type of power that it can consume. Some varieties of apron floodlighting systems can be integrated with renewable energy sources such as solar panels and wind turbines, helping operators to further reduce their carbon footprint.
Doing so can also help to build operational resilience, as it reduces an airport’s reliance on the electricity grid.
An LED Lighting system (50% less energy used) will be less energy-intensive so therefore it will be easier to find energy sources.
3. Impact across the product lifecycle
As with any type of physical asset, procurement professionals must evaluate an apron lighting system’s impact across its entire lifecycle, not just when it is in use. This requires that they go beyond simple operational and maintenance-related considerations, and instead attain a detailed understanding of a system’s full environmental footprint.
Naturally, the responsibility to provide that information should lie with the manufacturers and suppliers involved in a tender, RFP, or RFQ. If not included in a provider’s response, procurement teams should request additional information on:
- The raw materials used in the manufacturing process, including country of origin. If applicable, information on any regenerative initiatives used to offset their extraction should also be provided.
- Transportation and shipping methods, including those employed during the installation process.
- Materials used when packaging the systems.
- End-of-life support, with a particular focus on recycling and renewal. Detailed information on responsible disposal should be provided where components cannot otherwise be repurposed.
4. Compliance with standards and certifications
Adherence to relevant environmental standards and certifications provides an indication of a supplier’s overall approach towards sustainability. While many of the standards that a provider might adopt are likely to be relevant beyond just an apron floodlighting system, two of the most important include:
- ISO 14001, which focuses specifically on environmental management systems, and requires a commitment to continuous improvement.
- ISO 50001, which addresses energy management systems and energy efficiency as a whole.
5. A wider commitment to sustainability
As well as evaluating the sustainability credentials of an apron lighting system itself, procurement teams should also explore a provider’s overarching approach to environmental responsibility. Key indicators here include:
- Ongoing research and development programmes focused on continuous energy efficiency improvements.
- Evidence of an organisation-wide commitment to sustainability, including carbon offsetting, travel limitations, and the existence of a net zero target.
- Efforts to create a greener supply chain, including stipulations, requirements, and guidance provided to partner entities.
While sustainability is a significant issue in and of itself, it must also be considered as part of the larger picture around environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG). With that in mind, suppliers should also be asked to show that they:
- Conform to fair labour practices in all of the markets in which they operate.
- Are respectful of human rights.
- Maintain safe working conditions across all production facilities and installation locations.
- Adhere to ethical sourcing practices.
Despite the many additional complexities that procurement teams might need to consider when evaluating a lighting provider’s sustainability credentials, that additional effort can undoubtedly be worthwhile. At Glasgow Airport in Scotland, for instance, Midstream’s luminaires have doubled existing light levels whilst simultaneously reducing power consumption by more than 60%. Our other aviation case studies tell similar stories of success, too.
With the right choice of partner, airports can ensure that their apron floodlighting system is a help – and not a hindrance – to their sustainability ambitions.