Airport News

New Burlington airport improvements include a rooftop oasis

September 11, 2012

Burlington Free Press Article

The roof of the tall parking garage at Burlington International Airport is worth a visit.

No signs point the way to the roof, and no hints of its existence can be found on the airport’s soon-to-be-updated website. But even without public notices, the garage’s green roof, designed by the Burlington firm of Freeman, French, Freeman working with landscape architect Mike Lawrence , is one of many features that make the airport an attractive introduction to the city.

And other changes are coming or already here. The airport’s welcoming sign on Airport Drive is freshly painted, other new signs are going up, Skinny Pancake and Chubby Muffin may become the new snack vendors, a solicitation will soon go out for a new restaurant operator, and the airport is poised to hire a new marketing staffer to reach out to Quebec travelers and others who might otherwise turn to New York airports in Albany or Plattsburgh, or Montreal’s Trudeau International Airport.

The garage’s green roof was installed in 2010 by the Linden LAND Group of Addison and more improvements are coming. In the bare space remaining on the garage roof conduits are in place for a solar-power array that will soon power the garage and perhaps part of the terminal, said Heather Kendrew, the airport’s director of maintenance, engineering and environment. That should happen, she said, in the “next couple of years.”

The airport has been in the news frequently over the last year as the base for the Vermont Air National Guard’s F-16s and as the Air Force’s preferred Guard base for the new jets, the F-35A. Beyond that, as it has grown over the years, the airport’s noise has become an issue for close neighbors. Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger launched his successful campaign for mayor from a seat on the Airport Commission.

Even as Weinberger was raising questions as a commissioner about the city’s handling of airport finances, the addition to the north garage was proceeding and the green roof was being installed. Kendrew said the roof, aside from being attractive, also satisfies a South Burlington landscaping requirement for development projects. South Burlington is the airport’s host city.The roof of the tall parking garage at Burlington International Airport is worth a visit.

No signs point the way to the roof, and no hints of its existence can be found on the airport’s soon-to-be-updated website. But even without public notices, the garage’s green roof, designed by the Burlington firm of Freeman, French, Freeman working with landscape architect Mike Lawrence , is one of many features that make the airport an attractive introduction to the city.

And other changes are coming or already here. The airport’s welcoming sign on Airport Drive is freshly painted, other new signs are going up, Skinny Pancake and Chubby Muffin may become the new snack vendors, a solicitation will soon go out for a new restaurant operator, and the airport is poised to hire a new marketing staffer to reach out to Quebec travelers and others who might otherwise turn to New York airports in Albany or Plattsburgh, or Montreal’s Trudeau International Airport.

The garage’s green roof was installed in 2010 by the Linden LAND Group of Addison and more improvements are coming. In the bare space remaining on the garage roof conduits are in place for a solar-power array that will soon power the garage and perhaps part of the terminal, said Heather Kendrew, the airport’s director of maintenance, engineering and environment. That should happen, she said, in the “next couple of years.”

The airport has been in the news frequently over the last year as the base for the Vermont Air National Guard’s F-16s and as the Air Force’s preferred Guard base for the new jets, the F-35A. Beyond that, as it has grown over the years, the airport’s noise has become an issue for close neighbors. Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger launched his successful campaign for mayor from a seat on the Airport Commission.

Even as Weinberger was raising questions as a commissioner about the city’s handling of airport finances, the addition to the north garage was proceeding and the green roof was being installed. Kendrew said the roof, aside from being attractive, also satisfies a South Burlington landscaping requirement for development projects. South Burlington is the airport’s host city.

Green roofs are increasingly a building requirement in Germany, said Linden LAND’s Rebecca Lindenmeyr, and they are more and more common in American cities.

“In Germany, now,” she said, “you can be on a roof top and look down and see green.”

That isn’t exactly the case at the airport, where the close view down is mostly of concrete, but the rooftop garden is a quiet escape from airport noise, and it offers a grand view of the Green Mountains, the broad airport expanse and South Burlington’s tree-lined streets.

The airport’s green roof is about 8,000 square feet. It arrived in “vegetated two-foot modules, like a flat from the nursery,” Lindenmeyr said, filled with a gravelly shale and planted with sedums. The modules grow together seamlessly after the heavy flats are lifted by a crane to the roof.

Lawrence said the plants are “collected from mountain tops” on several continents by a Maryland firm, which then propagates them and pre-grows them for applications such as the airport roof top.

“They’re all Alpine plants,” Lawrence said of the 45 varieties at the airport, calling them well suited to an austere environment.

Green roofs provide some insulation for occupied buildings (irrelevant to a parking garage), and they also filter and soak up storm water (up to an inch of rain when they’re dry, Lawrence said), but their main appeal is that they’re attractive.

At the airport, a roof visit is easy: take the north skywalk to the garage and the stairs or elevator to the sixth floor. The roof has benches, a picnic table, and on a late summer day, a nice breeze ruffles the sedums (chosen, Lawrence said, because they’re a leaf succulent that changes colors during the growing season).

And as for pointers to visitors that the airport garage has a roof worth visiting, Kendrew says markers should be in place sometime this winter.