Aviation leader: going green saves money

Rosemarie Andolino

“We’re always looking to partner with universities,” Rosemarie Andolino, Chicago aviation commissioner, says. Photo: Ron Fernandez/College of Engineering

“We’re always looking to partner with universities. You guys are the future,” Chicago aviation commissioner Rosemarie Andolino told students and faculty members Thursday as she presented the College of Engineering’s first Distinguished Lecture.

Andolino, who oversees the needs and safety of 86 million passengers and 55 airlines at Midway and O’Hare airports, is known as a leader in airport sustainability.

She oversaw the O’Hare Modernization Plan, an $8 billion expansion that reconfigured O’Hare’s layout for higher efficiency.

Andolino discussed some of the project’s engineering challenges.

One of the biggest: working on improvements while the airport remained in operation. The construction team had to watch height restrictions to avoid incoming and departing planes.

“Safety and security are the first things you have to do, and you have to do them well,” Andolino said. “That’s our focus each and every day.”

Another challenge focused on the construction of runway pavement.

“Most people think of runway pavement like a road — just a little deeper and stronger — but it’s a little bit more than that,” Andolino said. To enhance O’Hare’s green initiative, the base level was a mixture of lime and dirt to make a permeable surface, “instead of bringing in an aggregate,” she said.

O’Hare’s sustainability movement, which began in 2003, brought a fresh garden to Terminal 3, where herbs and other plants grow from tall silos. A green roof was planted atop the north air traffic control tower.

“Going green doesn’t cost you money, but it can actually save you money,” Andolino said. “It also helped us be a good neighbor to the surrounding communities.”

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