Articles Aviation Connects the World

Grimshaw always has worked alongside our valued clients to provide technological expertise and design leadership to the aviation industry. We do not question our resolve to continue to work in the aviation sector. However, we are concentrating our efforts to understand how to better apply our expertise, knowledge and experience to help our aviation clients enact real change and respond positively and proactively to the challenges of carbon minimisation. 

Our primary aim is to bring our expertise, ability and our own commitment to net carbon zero targets by 2020 and carbon neutral design by 2025 to the service of our clients as we assist them in achieving reduction or elimination of their carbon footprints. We have additionally set targets to enable and advocate for regenerative designs for our clients by 2030, significantly in advance of our peers.

Prior to March 2020, the aviation sector was responding to an entirely different crisis: the need to address its carbon footprint and extent to which aircraft and airports substantially contribute to CO2 emissions, estimated to be 3% of the global total. This response was initially motivated by regulatory and investor demands but also by the sobering fact that if the sector’s emissions continued unchecked, it could be on track to contribute as much as 47% of global emissions by 2047.

In response, the industry set ambitious targets around four pillars:

-Technology, especially towards more efficient aircraft and engines including electric and hydrogen-powered engines
-Operational and infrastructure changes including navigational and air traffic control improvements
-Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAFs) with targets for adoption and use
-Global, market-based measures to effectively deal with local government variations to regulation of the industry including CORSIA, a global standard to ensure emissions are stablised from 2021*

Modern aviation, with only a brief 140-year history, has contributed immeasurably to the social, cultural and economic development of the world, and continues to do so. This contribution has been overwhelmingly positive: connections of people and places, the development of tourism and the facilitation of commerce and trade are all inextricably linked to the development of aviation. In advanced economies, new conventions of travel and exchange will emerge in a post-pandemic world. In the developing world, economic advancement and aviation are inseparable and the knowledge transfer of best practice represents a considerable opportunity. Most of the airports being planned in the world are in emerging economies.

It is also important to consider that although aviation in various forms has existed for many years, the application of technology has created exponential advances in propulsion, navigation and automation relatively recently. The same technological development which has fast-tracked aviation and made it more affordable, accessible and a catalyst for economic development can be expected to bring us the solutions to the environmental, social and cultural impacts of aviation, guided by the application of comprehensive design thinking.

Grimshaw has worked in the aviation sector for over 30 years. We design master plans and buildings which allow for vast operational and airside improvements for our clients. We design airports and other related transportation infrastructure that connects those airports to the cities and countries in which they are located. The depth of our practice in aviation has always been significant. We are presently engaged with numerous master planning exercises for the world’s largest airports as well as design or build-stage airports, terminals, extensions and infrastructure on four continents.

We have established our own aggressive targets for carbon mitigation borne out of our conviction that climate change is the most significant challenge facing our planet. Notwithstanding the current pre-occupation with the pandemic, a world in which the virus is managed will still be a world facing the catastrophic consequences of a changing climate, with economic, social and human impacts that will make the disruption of the pandemic seem inconsequential by comparison. We believe in developing and thinking for the future. Importantly, we want there to be a part of the best future possible.

We recognise that rapid technological and policy transformation are required to make aviation sustainable**. In addition to improvements in aircraft design and aviation fuels, we believe further decarbonization of the aviation sector should include policies to improve airport infrastructure. Airports represent large holdings of land. We have assisted our clients with transformative strategies that can render these landholdings as better performing assets on which to develop carbon-mitigating and regenerative design strategies. Because of our extensive involvement with other transportation modalities, we can assist with the development of inter-modal strategies such as the coordination of airport stations with regional and urban rail services.

Many of our clients have established active sustainability and carbon minimisation plans, and we have provided counsel and enabling designs to others. In the future, we will continue to develop our research and carbon-neutral design capability to assist our existing clientele and also seek evidence from new clients of their intentions to commit to carbon neutral and eventually regenerative designs so we can effectively collaborate together to achieve these targets.

We appreciate some transformations may take more time and require government engagement, but we believe there is a unique role we can play in the design of the net zero industrial economy, just as our predecessors led the development of creative solutions to address the adverse effects of the industrial revolution on society.

Presented by the Grimshaw Partners, November 2020

This Statement will be periodically reviewed and revised to reflect political, economic, social, environmental and technology development impacting the aviation sector.

*IATA, Climate Change →

**Depending on the sector growth and national aviation policies, technological transformation to achieve emission reductions of up to 6.27 – 9.18 gigatons CO2equivalent reduced / sequestered (2020–2050) is achievable with current technologies. →