Large concrete tanks will store rainwater for use at Vancouver International Airport

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Proposed rainwater harvesting system at YVR strengthens Vancouver Airport Authority’s sustainable design leadership

The Vancouver Airport Authority is planning expansions to the existing Vancouver International Airport terminal to accommodate future increases in passenger traffic. The Authority has established extensive sustainability goals. Achieving these sustainability goals requires a holistic problem-solving approach, considering the technical requirements for the projects, as well as water conservation, environmental stewardship, economic, and social impacts.

The Vancouver Airport Authority has set a goal to reduce potable water use by 30%. The integration of a rainwater collection system will help the Authority meet this goal. Rainwater would be collected, stored and used to offset potable water use and provide post-disaster firewater storage. 

The Vancouver Airport Authority engaged Associated Engineering and partners Local Practice and 2020 Engineering to evaluate options for rainwater harvesting. Project Manager, Linda Wojcicka, tells us, “We’re leading an integrated team of experts in sustainability, water conservation and reuse, civil infrastructure, water treatment systems, and integrated design. Associated staff are responsible for the process, civil, mechanical, structural, electrical, and instrumentation and controls engineering.

Key project activities and deliverables include stakeholder workshops, concept development, schematic design, and constructability. Initial consultations with various stakeholders identified the key opportunities, gaps, deviations, and potential conflicts, and set the project objectives. This formed the basis for developing potential options for a rainwater harvesting system. 

To size and design the rainwater harvesting system, the team analyzed historical rainfall data, as well as future climate scenarios. Extreme climate event data were used to evaluate how future climate scenarios could impact the design and performance of the rainwater systems. 

In the BC south coast, average annual precipitation is projected to increase. Extreme precipitation events will increase in magnitude and frequency, potentially leading to flooding. Depending on return period and duration, extreme events for the 2050s may increase by 20% to 30%, and by 25% to 40% for the 2080s. For the proposed rainwater harvesting system, future climates will likely result in greater volumes during the winter months. There would be less rainwater during the summer to replenish the tanks.

The rainwater harvesting system will increase the airport’s resilience, conserve natural resources, and reinforce the airport’s leadership in sustainability.

Our key personnel involved on this project include Linda Wojcicka, Mark Porter, Athol King, Aaron McCartie, Melissa Heinrick, Connor Wilson, Stuart Nash, Dale Harrison, and Larry Martin.