China has made substantial inroads in the development of its airport network over the past decade. The number of civil airports increased from 142 in 2007 to 233 in 2018. The number of passengers traveling by aviation grew significantly from 186 million a year in 2007 to 612 million a year in 2018, which made China the second largest aviation market.
With the completion of airports in major cities, China is turning its focus on feeder airports to better connect lagging regions with major cities. Issues such as poor connectivity and limited integration with other transport modes, poor operational efficiency, and low utilization generally beset many feeder airports. In addition, China signed on to the Paris Climate Agreement in 2015, and in June 2018, the State Council identified the civil aviation industry as a key area to reduce the country’s carbon footprint.
The recently completed Jiangxi Shangrao Sanqingshan airport, a feeder airport financed by the World Bank, not only has successfully overcome the aforementioned obstacles, but also can serve as a demonstration model for the future development of feeder airports in China. The project was rated “Highly Satisfactory” by the Independent Evaluation Group of the World Bank Group in 2019.
Located in the mountainous area of Jiangxi province, Shangrao has ample tourism resources of natural beauty such as Wuyuan, Sanqingshan, and Poyang Lake. Sustainable development is especially emphasized in Shangrao’s future plan, with the focus on tourism and serving as one of the transport hubs in Jiangxi province. Shangrao airport was designed incorporating ‘Green Concept’ and developed as a public-private partnership to ensure its sustainable operation.
Shangrao airport began operations on May 28, 2017, when it welcomed the first airline connecting Shangrao with Chengdu. Currently, 12 cities in China connect to Shangrao by air, including Beijing, Shenzhen, Qingdao, Chengdu, Kunming, Harbin, and Sanya. Passenger volumes have increased significantly, reaching 375,000 annually in 2018 – and is on track to reach the goal of 500,000 annually by 2020. Direct aviation connections with major cities shorten travel times by about 45%.
The airport was awarded the EDGE (Excellence in Design for Greater Efficiencies) green building certificate on January 21, 2019. Based on the EDGE evaluation, the Shangrao Sanqingshan airport achieved 24% energy savings (427 Mwh/ year), 42% water savings (36,392 m3/year), 38% building materials embodied energy savings (15,662 GJ), and 24% operational CO2 savings (306t/year). Below are some key eco-friendly efforts help the Sanqingshan airport to go green and offset carbon emissions:
- Terminal design - The terminal features with large roof overhangs for solar shading, double-glass facades and natural ventilation help maintain the indoor light and temperature.
- Systems - The airport is equipped with geothermal heating and cooling systems, which reduce energy consumption for heating by 40%, and for cooling by 30%. Wastewater and storm water are collected separately and treated for irrigation and reuse. Fixed electrical ground power and preconditioned air units are installed to provide on-board power supply and ventilation when passengers are boarding.
- Airport layout design and connectivity - The airport layout shortened the taxiing distance for aircrafts. The airport is connected with the city center and the high-speed rail station by electric-bus service.
The Shangrao Sanqingshan airport plays an important role in the economic development of Shangrao Municipality and Northeastern Jiangxi by facilitating the growth of tourism. In 2017, the total revenue from tourism-related activities in Shangrao reached RMB148 billion (more than US$21 billion), up 31.5% compared to 2016. The total number of tourists in Shangrao in 2017 reached 1.6 billion, up 30.3% compared to 2016. For the first time, Shangrao ranked in China’s Top 10 tourist cities in 2017. From May 2016 to October 2018, jobs in the tourism industry in Shangrao increased from 342,000 to 650,000.
Building Shangrao as a green airport is part of China’s overall effort to transition its growth model toward greater environmental sustainability and investments in ‘greening’ growth. Shangrao Sanqingshan airport’s eco-friendly design and operation have set a good example for other feeder airports in China and other developing countries around the world.