Meet Jessica Noon, AICP, LEED AP, ENV, SP, Airport Sustainability Manager, Capital Development
Jessica Noon is the new Sustainability Program Manager for the Capital Development program at Philadelphia International Airport.
Jessica, thanks so much for agreeing to talk about your role in the Capital Development program!
Tell us about why it’s so important now, more than ever, to address sustainability and incorporate sustainable practices into the development going on here, at the Airport.
There is no time better than the present to protect our natural resources and plan for a sustainable future – something the Airport and our partners have been doing for years now. However, the current moment presents a prime opportunity for the Airport to chart its path as a leader in sustainability, and to work with airlines, concessions, city leadership and other motivated partners to set and achieve ambitious sustainability goals.
The impacts of climate change and ecological degradation are growing more apparent daily, and the public is becoming increasingly informed and concerned about environmental issues. We are seeing political and corporate voices prioritizing climate change, with even airlines making commitments to reduce or eliminate carbon emissions. Across the globe, airports are greening their operations, so there is a lot of exciting work and research from which we can learn. Public funds for sustainable infrastructure are also increasing, as we have seen in the recent infrastructure bill. All of these trends make this a crucial moment for us to expand airport sustainability efforts.
In addition to doing the right thing to protect our planet for future generations, integrating sustainability into airport operations is a smart fiscal decision. Preparing for climate change means that our facilities will be less susceptible to sea level rise and intense storms. By setting an example as a pioneer of sustainability, PHL can become more competitive when seeking federal funds. Refining our waste stream can help us prepare for higher future landfill fees. There is little doubt that regulations on carbon emissions and other pollution will continue to increase, and, as a sustainable airport, we will be ahead of the game when those new requirements arise.
Sustainability seems to cover so many areas – air quality, water quality, climate change, recycling. Where do you focus most of your time and energy these days?
The Sustainability team at PHL is truly doing it all! We are integrating sustainability into our capital projects whenever possible – utilizing recycled materials, prioritizing energy efficiency, considering climate change impacts and incorporating renewable energy. We have a solar farm designed for Northeast Philadelphia Airport and are studying opportunities for solar power generation at PHL. We are working to reduce our own carbon footprint by retrofitting the terminal with LED lights and partnering with airlines to convert to electric ground support equipment, install electric charging stations and replace diesel-powered preconditioned air units with electric models. We manage the airport’s recycling program and are investigating ways to increase our waste diversion rate, so we are sending less material to the landfill, all while staying on top of environmental regulations, noise management and air quality issues.
So far, my focus has really been on getting up to speed on all the work that is currently underway, and helping to facilitate our two long term plans, the Sustainability Management Plan and the Climate Action Resiliency Plan, which will guide our work in the coming years. I am also working on a strategy for the Airport to track and reduce our carbon emissions as part of the Airport Carbon Accreditation program, helping some of our capital projects meet environmental certification requirements, and putting together an annual report for the sustainability program for 2021 – all in collaboration with my amazing colleagues in the Sustainability team and the Capital Development Group, of course.
What are some things the Airport is doing to be a good neighbor?
Many of the efforts we undertake to reduce carbon emissions also reduce harmful air pollutants such as nitrous oxides, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and particulate matter that cause respiratory issues, which is particularly important in Philadelphia since we experience air quality issues. When we replace diesel or gas-powered equipment and vehicles with electric models, we are helping improve air quality at the airport and in nearby communities. PHL has a robust noise management effort where we track noise events and respond to community concerns regarding noise impacts from airport operations. We also work closely with the City of Philadelphia to support citywide climate change resiliency and environmental efforts.
What programs does the Airport use to plan and execute sustainable projects at the airport?
At the moment, the Sustainability team is developing a number of important plans that will help guide our program going forward: Sustainability Management Plan, Climate Adaptation and Resiliency Plan; Airport Master Plan Update; and the Vehicle and Equipment Electrification Strategic Plan. These initiatives have brought together staff from across the DOA to prioritize sustainability strategies. We recently updated our capital project design standards to integrate green approaches and require that new construction and renovation projects acquire LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Silver certification or better if feasible. We utilize Envision, a certification program for infrastructure, to prioritize sustainability in our airfield projects and ParkSmart Certification for parking projects.
Do you have a vision for the program? What is on your wish list?
My first priority for PHL is resilience to climate change: this is not just an option but a necessity to the long-term success of the airport. In addition, I am excited to lead the charge to significantly reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, so we are not just preparing for climate change effects but helping to prevent climate change. I would also like to see us produce more of our own power through solar panels and other renewable energy technologies, and pilot sustainable materials such as carbon-capturing concrete and porous pavement. Last, I hope to maximize our waste diversion rates with creative approaches – I would love to develop a program to compost food waste here at the airport.
What lessons will you take from Philadelphia Water as you begin your new role at the Airport?
My experience at the Water Department has definitely helped me jump into the capital project management and budgeting processes at DOA, and my work on stormwater management and flood mitigation gives me a unique perspective on our climate resiliency work. The best lessons I have learned however are about how to integrate green approaches into capital projects and infrastructure planning, and how to maximize partnerships to move large-scale environmental programs forward. All of these require patience, diligence, and generous amounts of communication and collaboration, all of which I hope to bring to my new role.
What is one thing that you think travelers would be interested to know as they move through the Airport, related to sustainability?
As a PHL passenger myself, I think travelers would be very interested to hear about our sustainability program overall – energy efficiency efforts, the solar power farm, electric charging stations for ground support equipment and personal vehicles, carbon emissions reduction work, and more. Selfishly, I would also like them to know more about how to recycle properly at the airport and help us avoid liquid contamination of our recycling stream – a major challenge to efficient recycling operations.
Thanks for all you do, Jessica!
We wish you much success!
Meet Thomas Joseph, P.E., PMP, CM, Airport Engineering Assistant Manager, Capital Development
Thomas Joseph, Airport Engineering Assistant Manager and Acting Planning/Environmental Manager received his Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from Calicut University, India. He started his career in the US at the Philadelphia Water Department in 1991 and transferred to the Airport in 1996, where he has worked in Technical Services (now PAU), Planning, and Engineering.
What made you want to be an engineer?
I grew up in a village where engineers, doctors, and lawyers are well respected. Since my early childhood, I dreamt of becoming an engineer, as I was good at math, even though, as a kid, I didn’t really know a lot about what an engineer really does. I feel lucky that I was able to follow through with my dream and make it come true.
What brought you to the Division of Aviation?
I fell into aviation. I started my career with the Philadelphia Water Department and came to the airport on a promotional opportunity. Ever since, I have loved the airport as a city within a city. It is not like any other City Department; the airport is dynamic, and there is a great camaraderie which makes every day exciting.
There are interesting challenges at PHL. With COVID we have seen an uptick in cargo traffic as everyone turned to online shopping for safety reasons. PHL has a great growth potential for cargo development and has a land development plan to support its development. My hope is that within the next 3 to 5 years west cargo operations may be fully operational.
What are some of the key principles by which you live?
My faith is my driving force.
What are your hobbies and interests outside of work?
I enjoy gardening and cooking. I help my wife with her flower garden, and I grow vegetables for cooking, especially peppers, okra, and bitter gourd. I like to cook all kinds of dishes, especially Indian food, but I also like steak. I make steak with peppers and mushrooms and a lot of cheese.
That sounds delicious! Do you have any cooking advice for beginners?
Slow cooking. You have to take your time to cook. If you rush, it doesn’t taste as good!
Thanks for chatting with us Thomas!
Meet Imad Haq P.E., LEED AP, Airport Engineering Manager Capital Development
Imad Haq is a certified LEED AP and registered Professional Engineer with eighteen years of experience. Before joining PHL thirteen years ago, Imad worked as a construction engineer in New York State.
Imad received his Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Engineering and Technology in Taxila, Pakistan and his Master of Engineering at CUNY, New York. He is a member of the US Green Building Council, the Project Management Institute, the Airport Council International, and the American Association of Airport Executives.
Despite his busy schedule, we had the chance to sit down with Imad and ask him some questions.
What do you enjoy most about working at the Airport?
I enjoy its diversity. The types of projects I work on are so varied. You never get bored working at an airport, especially with Capital Development.
How often to you get the chance to go out on the airfield, or are you managing projects from behind the scenes?
I’m not able to get out into the field as much as I would like to, but I still manage site visits during the construction phase of a project and to see the finished product.
What do you think are some of the larger challenges PHL faces?
I find the most challenging aspect of my work is to deal with limited real estate at airport. Additionally, from a vertical construction view and from airfield or landside development aspects, our engineers and contractors must maintain the smooth operation of the airport while managing major construction and expansion projects. This work needs special expertise, a lot of coordination, and ample facility knowledge.
What do you hope to accomplish within the next 3 to 5 years with engineering, design, and construction?
At Capital Development, our job is to provide smooth airport operations and a facility that is easy to maintain. My focus is to update the existing conditions database and provide a rolling facility renovation plan that can minimize any emergency events.
Why did you choose to pursue a career in engineering?
I like to solve problems. Engineering work keeps me busy and engaged.
What made you go into the field of aviation?
I used to work for a contractor, and I once managed a construction project at LaGuardia Airport (LGA). This stroke of luck opened me up to a mini-city and a lot of engineering and construction challenges. When I moved to Philadelphia and found an opportunity in my City (PHL) over thirteen years ago, I just had to take it.
What are some of the key principals by which you live?
I believe in service to others, and it is the main reason that I joined government service. I also strongly believe in the importance of having a positive attitude in life. Your attitude is more important than your outlook because it influences how you show up in life. I have faith in teamwork. A manager must be able to set priorities and motivate their team members.
Thanks so much for talking with us, Imad!
Meet Api Appulingam, Airport Deputy Director of Aviation, Capital Development.
Api is a registered Professional Engineer (P.E.) and has nearly two decades of experience in the aviation industry with several general aviation and commercial service airports in the U.S. and internationally.
Checkout Api's full bio here!
We know you’re no stranger to working at PHL, but we were wondering, what do you enjoy most about working at the Airport?
What’s there not to love about working at an airport?! Every day is different, and I enjoy tackling the challenges that we face, small and large. I also love that I get to be a small part of someone’s journey – hopefully they have a positive experience that brings them back to PHL.
Do you ever get the chance to go out on the airfield, or are you running the show from behind the scenes?
Of course, I go out on the airfield. My first project at PHL was the design for Runway 27L Extension and Associated Taxiways - it has a very special place in my heart. I felt so proud the first time I taxied on one of the connector taxiways and took off on the extension. Most recently, I got an up-close look at the ARFF [Aircraft Rescue and Firefighting] and training facilities – that was pretty impressive and cool!
What do you think are some of the larger challenges PHL faces?
That’s a good question. I think the biggest challenge that we are facing is capacity. Many other airports in the U.S. and around the world are facing the same challenge. We are tasked with coming up with creative solutions that are sustainable, enhance safety and comply with regulations – all the while allowing us to grow to meet demand.
What do you hope to accomplish within the next 3 to 5 years with Capital Development ?
I started thinking about this before I joined PHL. I look forward to executing the projects in our $2.4 billion Capital Program. There are lots of exciting projects happening at PHL and PNE and much, much more to come with a potential new use and lease agreement. To hear more about Api's plans for PHL's Capital Development, listen here.
What one change are you looking to implement with Capital Development?
I am lucky to work with such a great group of people. Everyone is excited to come to work and give it their all. I am not necessarily looking to implement major changes but will certainly enhance the existing processes and support the team in any way that I can.
As a woman in a male dominated field, what advice would you give your younger self and women entering engineering and similar industries?
I would tell my younger self to keep doing what you are doing and don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do it. I live by this motto: When one door closes another opens and if it doesn’t open then kick it down! One piece of advice I would give to women is to not be afraid of saying yes to an opportunity that comes your way, even if it’s challenging and unfamiliar. Every opportunity will help grow your talent and career and help you kick that door down!
What are some of the key principals by which you live?
I believe being grateful and appreciative of what you have is an important principle to live by – both personally and professionally. I am thankful for what I’ve achieved so far and will continue to pursue goals that take what I have achieved to the next level. Also, keeping a positive mindset through this journey is key and I try my very best to do that and surround myself with people that help me achieve those goals.
Have you tried out a cheesesteak at one of the airport eateries? ( Jim’s, Geno’s, Tony Luke’s ) And if you have, which is your favorite?
I haven’t. I’m a vegetarian so I’m still on the hunt for a vegan/vegetarian cheesesteak. However, I’m a tea-aholic so you’ll usually find me ordering a large English breakfast tea at one of the La Colombes. Caffeine is my Jet-A!
Thank you for taking the time to chat with us today! We hope you accomplish everything you’ve set out to do as the head of Capital Development. We wish you much success.