Atkins and IATA develop first airport construction carbon estimation tool

Posted on 17 July, 2023 by Advance 

Atkins, working together with the International Air Transport Association (IATA), has created a suite of innovative digital tools for airports to estimate the embodied carbon associated with the construction of terminal buildings and aviation assets.

Image courtesy Atkins

The digital toolkit will enable airports - for the first time ever - to better understand and mitigate the impacts of construction-related activities that contribute to carbon.

As the global aviation industry continues its post-pandemic growth, modernising and adapting infrastructure to meet Net Zero targets and the needs of sustainable aviation, the need to reduce embodied carbon in new buildings such as terminals and runways is ever more pressing.  

The digital tools will deliver embodied carbon benchmarking for the three key airport asset types of terminal buildings, runways and multistorey car parks. This will enable airport development teams to understand the carbon footprint of development work and enter into dialogue with airport operators about how to mitigate it.

The new tools, developed by Atkins and IATA, are believed to be the first early stage embodied carbon assessment tools specifically focused on airport terminal buildings.

While most current tools measure carbon in general buildings and at a later stage in the design, this new digital toolkit is specific to aviation and to be applied at very early stage in the design, aimed at adding the most value.

Andy Yates, Technical Director Aviation Infrastructure for Atkins, said: “Our embodied carbon advisory team have worked with IATA to develop a set of innovative industry tools, leading a mature aviation market into a challenging and previously unexplored area of embodied carbon assessment.

“These tools allow clients to confidently explore the vital conversations around embodied carbon reduction as airports respond to the complex challenges that surround the sector’s net zero goals.

“The tools have been developed by a multi-disciplinary team including architecture, airport planning, and structural design as well as carbon experts, ensuring a solution that understands the complexity and multi-faceted approach needed to assess embodied carbon.”

Nick Careen, IATA Senior Vice President Operations, Safety and Security, said: “Decarbonizing aviation is the industry’s greatest challenge, and the industry is fully committed and making progress. However, reaching net zero by 2050 will require collective efforts from the entire industry supply chain and from policymakers.

“Our collaboration with Atkins on this innovative digital toolkit will help airports meet their own objectives by providing a crucial platform to evaluate and reduce carbon impacts for new airport developments.

“By facilitating dialogue around carbon mitigation from day one of an airport development project, together we are making headway towards Net Zero aviation."

Credibility, transparency and flexibility are key components of the tool’s creation, to allow for future adaptability and adjustment of any assumptions.

Atkins – and the wider SNC-Lavalin Group - has decades of expertise in the design and certification of major aircraft programmes, global airport infrastructure design, and the development of sustainable aviation projects and aerospace ventures, including advanced air mobility aircraft.

Its Decarbonomics service, (a separate service offering aimed at operational carbon reduction of existing large-scale estates) provides airports with a data-based tool to benchmark and deliver decarbonisation roadmaps. Also, through the UK’s Future Flight Challenge, Atkins is leading an aviation consortium in the development of an Advanced Air Mobility ecosystem, in addition to developing the infrastructure for a project trialling the delivery of medical supplies delivery by drone.