The Gary/Chicago International Airport soared into a sustainable future Wednesday night with the first certification of an environmentally green building within Gary city limits.
The Gary Jet Center's 40,000-square-foot Hangar III became one of only 12 civilian aircraft hangars in the world to earn U.S. Green Building Council LEED certification for its environmental performance and sustainability.
"From the beginning, we wanted this project to contribute to the new day in Gary that is being fostered today with such hard work by our mayor," said Pat Lee, president of the LEE Companies and project manager for the hangar project.
Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson took to the microphone at a celebration held Wednesday night at the hangar and praised Gary Jet Center owner Wil Davis for his vision in building his business at the airport for the past 25 years.
"When many talked about what the airport could or should do, he came over here and just did it," the mayor said.
Four gleaming twin-engine passenger jets in the $5 million hangar served as the backdrop to a swift succession of speeches by Davis, Freeman-Wilson, Lee and others.
The U.S. Green Building Council has run its Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification program for 14 years, according to Lana Crouse, director for strategic accounts at the U.S. Green Building Council. Buildings can earn four levels of certification, with Gary Jet Center Hangar III earning the second highest, or Gold, level.
Only four civilian hangars in the world have earned that level of certification.
Inside the cavernous Hangar III Wednesday night the challenges faced in gaining LEED Gold certification were obvious.
The hangar's front door measures 240 feet across by 28 feet high, Lee said. The ceiling is almost 40 feet high.
A variety of strategies were used to overcome such challenges, including 2 1/2-inch-thick panels on the door and a wafer construction for all walls consisting of a sheet metal skin encasing a foam core. On the ceiling, that wafer expands to 4 inches.
Overhead fans 20 feet in diameter force hot air down where it's needed. The forced-air, natural gas-fired heating system can be controlled from the Gary Jet Center's office computers. The lighting is provided by digitally controlled, fluorescent high-bay fixtures.
The Gary Jet Center has two other hangars at the airport and serves customers with fueling, maintenance and other services. Recently, it earned a 2013 Boeing Supplier of the Year Award for its work in servicing Boeing Corp.'s corporate jet fleet, which is housed at the airport.