Canada’s Greenest

Winnipeg’s impressive new terminal is a vast improvement over the 1960s-era one it replaced. (All photos via WAA, courtesy of Gerry Kopelow)

Paolo Giannico visited Winnipeg, home of Canada’s ‘greenest’ terminal.

Winnipeg’s impressive new terminal is a vast improvement over the 1960s-era one it replaced. (All photos via WAA, courtesy of Gerry Kopelow)

Winnipeg’s James Armstrong Richardson International Airport (IATA: YWG) is home to Canada’s greenest terminal building.  The facility, which opened for business last year, represents a new era for YWG and bears no comparison to the old structure it replaced.  It’s a big, bright and beautiful terminal that focuses on energy efficiencies, ease of passenger access and potential for growth.  The old terminal was bursting at the seams during peak times – but the new one has 548,960sq ft (51,000m2) of floor space and can easily handle the passenger volume (See Airports International April/May 2012).
When the previous terminal was built in 1964, the airport only handled 600,000 passengers that year.  By the end of its working life that figure has risen almost six-fold to 3,369,974, with 136,000 aircraft movements provided by 19 airlines.  The new building can handle 5mppa – the Winnipeg Airport Authority (WAA) forecasting passenger numbers to rise to 4.6mppa within the next eight years.  It has 22 gates, 11 with airbridges, of which ten can accommodate Code C aircraft (Airbus, Boeing narrow-bodies and all Bombardier and Embraer regional aircraft) and one Code D/E gate for aircraft like 757s and larger.  It also features ground loading gates; the older terminal only had nine contact gates and one ground loading gate.
New Haven, Connecticut-based firm Pelli Clarke Pelli was the master architect of the new terminal and the prime architect was Stantec, based in Winnipeg.  The CAN$585 million (US$589m) construction project, the largest in the city’s history, began in 2005 with a new multi-storey car park, apron and taxiway.
The check-in areas are dominated by self-service technologies, thus making better use of space and giving passengers more control over the process.

The immense, glass-dominated terminal building meets all LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) levels of certification, making YWG the first Canadian airport to receive this accreditation.  The extensive use of glass allows in plenty of natural light, reducing electricity consumption and consequently, greenhouse gas emissions.  The terminal’s state-of-the-art ventilation system provides for maximum efficiency and comfort.
Further work includes new storm water drainage systems and improvements to road and parking surfaces.  An enhancement to the central utility building and the construction of a 1,050ft (320m) power cable tunnel were also completed.
Departing passengers now use the upper floor while arriving passengers exit using the lower floor; the old terminal had only three entry points for both functions, causing congestion and passenger flow issues within the terminal itself.  There are 32 common-use self-service check-in kiosks and passengers can self-tag their bags and place them on a common use baggage belt.  These are automatically scanned, processed and delivered to the correct loading positions where they are placed in baggage carts or containers and delivered to the aircraft.  The new baggage handling system was provided by Pteris Global Limited, a Singapore-based company.
Expansive corridors provide ease of circulation for passengers while larger departure lounges and lobby spaces offer more seating and queuing room.  These efforts have improved comfort levels and reduced congestion during peak times.
Particular attention has been given to accommodate people with disabilities.  Facilities include rounded or angled corners rather than 90-degree turns for easy mobility; door latch systems made operable by using a closed fist or open hand rather than wrist rotation; public service counters and video display screens situated to view at both standing and sitting heights; and alerts and public address announcements accompanied by an audible ring.  Strobe lights and visual alerts on video monitors are positioned to warn people of any safety concerns.
Like all airport projects in Canada, the work is funded through Airport Improvement Fees (AIFs).  The WAA set the fee at CAN$20 (US$20.1) per passenger ticket back in 2008.
Simplified use
President and CEO of the WAA, Barry Rempel, believes that input from carriers has led to a design that will serve increased traffic and provide for future demand without increasing the new terminal’s footprint.  He stresses that the usage of common-use facilities such as check-in, gates and baggage handling will assist in saving money for airlines over the long term and increase passenger throughput.
The introduction of common-use technology for ticketing and check-in has reduced the overall size of the new check-in area by 30% compared to what would have been needed for more traditional manned desks.  Winnipeg has a large number of seasonal charter flights and passengers for these can now also use the self-service check-in options.  This streamlines the check-in process during Winnipeg’s busy holiday season from November to May, which offers 19 destinations (including two new ones for 2012 – Panama City, Panama and Palm Springs in the United States).
Tall curving ceilings, along with plenty of space and natural light, characterise the interior of Winnipeg’s new terminal.

Floor-to-ceiling windows on the departure level provide a near 360-degree view of the Winnipeg skyline.  A constellation of 55 skylights in the arrival area is the ‘wow factor’ design feature all travellers are drawn to.  Building materials were locally procured and native prairie grass landscaping gives the area a Manitoba atmosphere.  All in all, it’s a considerable improvement over the modernist architectural style of the old terminal built in 1964.
In a departure from the landside-centred concessions layout, YWG has placed most of these businesses airside.  Various companies are responsible for retail and food and beverage services.  The Paradies Shops oversee retail outlets such as PGA Tours, Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory, Toad Hall Toys and CBC News.  The SSB Group oversees Tim Hortons, T.G.I. Friday’s, Stella’s Café and Bakery, Salisbury House, Upper Crust Bakery and Gondola Pizza.
Passenger amenities include WiFi and charging stations for laptops and other electronic devices.  The terminal has a travellers’ aid kiosk on the departures level, banking ATMs and a chapel.  For passenger assistance, the airport offers Goldwing and Silverwing Ambassadors along with valet parking services.
The old terminal served the city well but, the new one will hopefully attract more carriers to Winnipeg – maybe heralding some direct flights from Europe, for example.

Skylights allow in plenty of light to the baggage reclaim area – a far cry from the usual ‘basement’-style atmosphere.