A roadmap for success
As part of the focus to improve its overall environmental performance, Airbus has put an emphasis on maximising the use of eco-efficient technologies and processes at the company’s production sites around the globe. To manage this effort, Airbus launched blue5 – which draws the roadmap for reducing the environmental footprint of Airbus manufacturing activities by 2020.
Airbus’ blue5 initiative deals with the five areas of environmental focus for sustainable development incorporated the group-wide Vision 2020 strategic roadmap of Airbus parent company EADS (the Airbus Group’s predecessor): energy, waste, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), water and CO2 – and covers all Airbus sites and functions in Europe.
Specific blue5 objectives are to be reached by 2020 (based on 2006 levels – iso-revenue and iso-perimeter). Through 2012, Airbus already achieved*:
• 29.7 per cent reduction in energy consumption (heat and power)
• 57.9 per cent reduction in industrial water discharge
• 43.3 per cent reduction in water consumption
• 46.2 per cent reduction in waste production (non-recycled)
• 34.2 per cent reduction in CO₂ emissions (Scope 1 from fix sources and Scope 2)
• 49.2 per cent reduction in volatile organic compounds (VOC) emissions
* Figures validated January 2014
Staying on course
In January 2007, Airbus became the first aerospace enterprise to receive ISO 14001 environmental certification covering each of the company’s production sites and products throughout a lifecycle approach. This means Airbus uses a robust Environmental Management System (EMS) to continually monitor the environmental impact of its processes and products at each stage of activity. The certification was successfully renewed in 2010, and once again in 2013 for a further three years.
Airbus’ ISO 14001 certification is not a static process, with two internal reporting campaigns conducted annually to check environmental achievements and compare with the company’s objectives. Every three years, a complete re-certification is performed with participation of independent third-party auditors.
Better buildings worldwide
Airbus manufacturing locations around the world employ a mixture of environmentally-friendly construction and power solutions to reduce energy consumption. This includes geo-thermal systems that use pipes to gather natural heat from the ground for application in maintaining appropriate building temperatures.
In addition, biomass-powered boilers – in service at the Airbus North Factory in Broughton, UK – uses carbon-neutral fuels for fewer emissions, while the Tianjin, China A320 Family production facility’s energy consumption is enhanced by 2.1 km. of skylights for natural lighting.
In Toulouse, France, the A350 XWB final assembly facility has been outfitted with 22,000 square-metres of photovoltaic cells, which convert light energy into useable electricity. This technology also is in service at the A400M final assembly line in San Pablo, Spain – generating enough power to meet 10 per cent of the plant’s total needs.
Reducing harmful VOCs
As part of its on-going commitment for a “greener” environment, Airbus has introduced new technologies and processes to reduce the amount of harmful VOCs released during aircraft production. A successful example of this approach already has reached maturity at Airbus’ site in Saint-Nazaire, France, which employs a patented mirror milling system – a clean alternative technology for the milling of aircraft fuselage panels that produces no VOCs.
Airbus also uses innovation and operational improvements to boost the eco-efficiency of its aircraft painting procedures. At the core of this effort is the company’s “base coat, clear coat” livery painting method, which requires only one layer of thick paint and a layer of varnish or clear coat for protection – significantly reducing the volume of paint necessary per aircraft.
The use of solvents to clean painting equipment also has been reduced by 90 per cent by changes to the distribution methods, as well as through the use of lighter disposable wipes. In Hamburg, Germany, electrostatic guns keep paint mist to a minimum while exhaust air is cleaned and treated – ensuring that particles of paint can be disposed of separately.