Signature Flight Support BOS: Green facility greets New England visitors

 - August 1, 2007, 10:20 AM

Boston Logan International Airport finally has an FBO befitting the gateway to New England, after the June 21 grand opening of Signature Flight Support’s newest facility. Signature’s parent company, BBA Aviation, spent $13 million to build the new FBO, and part of the cost went to meeting “green” (environmentally friendly) standards required by the airport’s operator, Massport. Some of the green effort included architecturally designed land- scaping for the street-side entry area, including native flora (also mandated by Massport) and features that make for a welcoming oasis in the middle of all that airport concrete.

From the air side, the new Signature FBO stands tall, with an imposing glass-fronted two-story atrium-lobby protected inside by horizontal sunshades. The spacious ramp in front of the FBO means that Signature customers can park close to the FBO, and now there is plenty of room nearby on all but the busiest of days.

A large light pole in the middle of the ramp near the FBO entrance is slated for removal, according to Sharon Morris, the FBO’s operations manager, which will further open the ramp for arriving traffic. There is no hangar space, and thus no locally based flight departments or aircraft, she said, but that is because there is not enough room at Logan Airport.

There are two entrances to the FBO; Signature added a separate VIP section so crowd-wary celebrities and wealthy individuals can avoid entering through the more public main lobby, both from the air and street side.

One added attraction that pilots will notice immediately is the full airline-style security station near the air-side entrances, similar to what general aviation pilots have to endure at many European airports. This is a Massport requirement and includes X-ray and metal-detector screening by professional security screeners, the cost of which Signature has to bear.

A drawback to the security setup is that a pilot who clears security to go out to his airplane then returns inside, say, to escort passengers or retrieve a forgotten item will have to undergo the full security check again. This could become vexing, but with the Transportation Security Administration making noises about full security coming to general aviation airports, Signature might be ahead of the curve, and the setup at the Boston facility might be something U.S. pilots will have to get used to.

Employees who hold the required microchip-embedded airport access credentials are allowed to exit other secure doors to get to the ramp, but they must pass a fingerprint scan at each door and not allow a non-approved person to piggyback with them through the door. Monitored Massport security cameras pointed at each door are used to catch anyone who tries to follow a cleared employee out onto the ramp. Massport, which was criticized strenuously after the 9/11 attacks because some of the terrorists passed through Logan Airport, takes security seriously.

An Environmentally Friendly Facility
Inside, the 13,000-sq-ft FBO is art-deco modern, mingling industrial-style design with subtle green features. While the architects kept the goal of meeting U.S. Green Building Council Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards (approval should come in the next few months), they did so in a way that doesn’t smack visitors in the face with windmills, solar panels and chintzy fluorescent bulbs.

Working with Massport, the FBO’s designers, including project architects Chan Krieger Sieniewicz and Schenkel Schultz Architecture and project managers Kraus-Manning, focused instead on construction practices, building materials and energy efficiency, plus the outdoor landscaping. To keep energy costs down, designers maximized daylight throughout the building, while minimizing heat buildup from sunlight through special window glazing and the sunshades. Energy-saving building systems (lighting, heating, ventilation, air-conditioning and power) were also built into the design. The building uses recycled materials, and all wood is obtained from sources that certify its origins as not from ecologically fragile areas of the world.

On the street side, the landscaped garden includes benches that welcome visitors who want to enjoy the natural setting. “We wanted it to be a contemporary interpretation of a New England landscape,” said John Krajovic, Massport’s manager of airport planning.

“Carving a landscape into this was monumental,” said Mark Klopfer of Klopfer Design Group, which designed the outdoor garden. The project was complicated by the compacted landfill on which the airport is sited and high groundwater levels. All plants are native to New England and thus more drought-tolerant, he said. The focus of the landscape design was to take a small space and use layers of landscape features to make it appear larger.

The FBO offers two conference rooms, one with a kitchen sink to facilitate catering, and the other also featuring a business center. The table in the large conference room is all that’s left of Signature’s original Boston facility. Showers are available for FBO users, and there are three pilot quiet rooms next to the pilot lounge.

With the security screening apparatus by the door, the customer service desk is located to the rear of the lobby, fronting seating areas with comfortable leather chairs on carpeted areas surrounded by marble floors.

Signature is planning to add a concierge at Logan, matching the service already provided at its Luton, England; and Paris FBOs, according to Morris. With the international terminal across the ramp from the new FBO, Signature has been able to work with customs officers to have arrivals cleared on the FBO ramp.

Signature started construction of the new FBO in April 2006, and it began operations three months ago. The FBO’s lease with Massport is for 10 years, and that clock began ticking in 2005 when the company won the Massport request for proposal to build a new green FBO at Logan.

The cost of building a green facility is higher, said Massport’s Krajovic, but the return on investment is well worth it when considering energy savings over the long term. “Once it’s done,” he added, “[green building] offers encouragement to other businesses that it can be done.”

“This facility marks a new [achievement] in construction for Signature,” said Steve Lee, vice president of operations. “It’s the first LEED FBO in the U.S. We are pleased to have it serve as a new front door to Boston Logan International Airport and the City of Boston.”