Texas A&M System partners with City of Houston to implement capital improvement and energy efficiency upgrades at Hobby and Bush Airports

The projects will reduce the airports’ utility costs and improve air quality for Houston residents

April 24, 2019

HOUSTON — The Houston Airport System’s two international airports will undergo major infrastructure and equipment upgrades and much-needed renovations through a design and construction management agreement with the Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station (TEES), a member of The Texas A&M University System.

The projects at William P. Hobby Airport and George Bush Intercontinental Airport will reduce the airports’ utility costs and improve air quality for Houston residents.

“Collaboration among the city, our universities and our centers of commerce, leveraging technology for sound business practices and a better world, is a great boost for our growing city,” Mayor Sylvester Turner said. “I applaud this partnership and look forward to realizing its benefits.”

“In Texas A&M we’ve found a partner with the right expertise that, paired with our airport industry know-how, will advance the science of operating this large-scale enterprise more efficiently and cost effectively from an energy standpoint,” said Mario Diaz, City of Houston Aviation Director. 

“This project, which could be in excess of $30 million and is led by the Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station, will allow our Ph.D. students to perform a great service for the City of Houston, with results in saving both energy and public dollars,” said Texas A&M System Chancellor John Sharp.

The main objective for these projects is to replace outdated equipment, controls, baggage handling system and lighting at the airports. The projects include installing four new chillers as part of a new utility plant, improving building operations and installation of a solar array on new shading canopies. The implemented projects will reduce the annual energy consumption by more than 24 million kilowatt-hours, while reducing the utility costs by more than $1.3 million annually. This will also help the Houston Airport System to reach its “net-zero” energy goal for George Bush Intercontinental Airport.

As part of this agreement, the TEES Energy Systems Laboratory (ESL) will manage the project design and construction. The ESL will implement this project with the majority of funding from the LoanSTAR Program, administered by the State Energy Conservation Office (SECO) of the Texas Comptroller’s Office. The benefits of this project for all users of each airport, as well as the community at large, will be capital improvements and upgrades and increased efficiency of operating systems and processes, all of which will be paid back mostly by the stream of utility cost savings made possible as soon as the individual projects are implemented. Another major benefit will be the improved air quality in Houston and providing emissions reduction credits as part of Houston’s commitment in reducing nitrogen oxides as required by the Texas Emissions Reduction Plan (TERP).

The projects will also provide Ph.D. students within the Texas A&M System with the opportunity to learn and demonstrate best practices in energy efficiency and gain valuable hands-on experience in construction management. Collaborating with industry representatives and drawing on individual researchers’ varying backgrounds also promotes a productive learning climate for students while supplying them with professional workforce development and transferrable skills ideal for careers in both academia and industry.

In 2001, the state legislature enacted laws directing TEES to fill an important role in the implementation of state energy standards for new construction and calculating emissions reduction benefits from energy efficiency and renewable energy initiatives, which are part of TERP. The ESL has worked with the Houston Airport System on various energy-efficiency projects for more than five years. This new project is the culmination of previous studies and will be one of the most comprehensive undertaking for both the ESL and the Houston Airport System.

The project is expected to begin in April 2019 and conclude within a year.

About the Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station (TEES)

As an engineering research agency of Texas and a member of The Texas A&M University System, TEES performs quality research driven by world problems; strengthens and expands the state’s workforce through educational partnerships and training; and develops and transfers technology to industry. TEES partners with academic institutions, governmental agencies, industries and communities to solve problems to help improve the quality of life, promote economic development and enhance educational systems.

About the Energy Systems Laboratory

The Energy Systems Laboratory is a research center within TEES that has been in operation for nearly 35 years. The lab’s engineers, faculty and students conduct applied research and technology development on energy efficiency and renewables, and deploy technologies, solutions and training that meet clients’ needs worldwide.