18 September 2017

What is the definition of a green air cargo terminal?

Sustainability in air freight? A founding principle of Finnair’s environmental strategy is that all planning, procurement, logistics and operations factor in sustainability. Finnair's ultra-modern new COOL Nordic Cargo Hub at Helsinki Airport is the definition of a modern green air cargo terminal. 

Since its inception, every facet of the new COOL terminal has taken into account its environmental impact; in the planning and construction of the building, the procurement of its energy supply, its proximity to aircraft stands, and even how energy-efficient the operations are that take place under its solar-panelled roof.

“The COOL Nordic Cargo Hub is part of the Finnair Group’s sustainable development plan,” explains Milla Nyholm, who manages marketing and sustainability for Finnair Cargo. “The new terminal supports the Group’s overall environmental goals, along with the acquisition of modern Airbus A350s to the fleet.”

In brief: what a sustainable air cargo terminal looks like

  1. Terminal design in line with BREEAM environmental standards
  2. 1200 solar panels provide 10% of the terminal's energy 
  3. Critical automated storage area does not require lighting to function 
  4. COOL Terminal is located next to wide-body aircraft stands to reduce transport time
  5. Truck management system alleviates unnecessary journeys and vehicle idling 
  6. Maintenance and waste management schedules are highly optimised to cut down visits
  7. Automated guidance systems direct COOL Terminal forklifts to nearest task 
  8. Warehouse automation assigns incoming goods to nearest available storage location
  9. Helsinki airport is holder of coveted Airport Carbon Accreditation certificate 
  10. Dedicated and separated areas for general cargo and temperature-sensitive goods

Sustainable terminal from the very start

Already at the earliest design stage, planners of the terminal adopted the BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method) process, an internationally recognised certification procedure that evaluates all stages of building design and construction against widely recognised performance benchmarks.

“The building itself was constructed following sustainable construction principles,” Nyholm points out.  

“For example, some 1,200 solar panels have been installed to complement the terminal’s energy supply, representing over 10 percent of the facility’s annual energy consumption. Each panel produces 260 watts of energy and the annual energy production level is estimated at 265 MWh/a. To further boost energy efficiency, the automated ULD (Unit Load Device) storage area was designed to not require any lighting to function.”

Similarly, the location of the terminal and supporting traffic engineering were purposely designed to optimise operations and reduce energy consumption. The terminal’s proximity to wide-body aircraft berths shorten tarmac transport distances, and a new truck yard management model reduces unneeded driving and idle running of vehicles. Maintenance and waste management schedules were also planned to ensure functional and sustainable operations at the terminal.

Eco-friendly cargo terminal operations

Environmental aspects were also considered in planning the operations inside the terminal.  

“An automated guidance system directs each forklift in the terminal to tasks nearest to its location, thereby reducing driving and lowering energy consumption,” says Nyholm. “And based on the view of the Finnair network, our new Cargo Control Center (CCC) intelligently coordinates the work of the entire hub, with warehouse automation systems optimising the flow of goods and assigning the nearest storage location to each shipment entering the AS/RS (Automated Sending/Retrieval System).”

Sustainability at Helsinki Airport

Already, there are clear signs that the efforts to achieve one of the world’s most environmentally sustainable cargo terminals are paying off. 

The entity administering the BREEAM sustainability assessment process is to award the facility with a ‘Very Good’ rating, while the Helsinki Airport has been awarded the coveted Airport Carbon Accreditation (ACA) certificate for being a carbon-neutral airport, in no small part to the sustainability actions taken in the building and operation of the new cargo terminal.

“We are excited that our COOL Nordic Cargo Hub is about to start its initial operations,” asserts Nyholm, “and knowing that it has been achieved in accordance with the Finnair Group’s sustainability principles.”