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Foster + Partners’ Marseille Airport plans hit by net zero carbon target fears

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France’s environment agency has demanded a rethink of Foster + Partners’ Marseille airport expansion over its carbon emissions

The Autorité Environnementale (AE) has issued a statement saying a future scenarios study by the airport had underestimated the project’s environmental impact and overestimated its economic benefits.

The new Terminal 1 extension is scheduled to open at the start of 2023, with a new heart for the airport connecting ‘iconic’ buildings such as Fernand Pouillon’s Hall A and Richard Rogers’ Hall B. A second phase, predicted for 2027, will increase the overall capacity of Terminal 1 from 8 million to 12 million passengers.

However, it appears those plans clash with France’s new target to be carbon neutral by 2050, prompting the environmental agency to demand clarification.

In an online statement the AE said: ‘The study is generally well documented, but has major methodological flaws in the definition of the study scenarios.’

While the agency’s objections are not entirely clear, it appears the AE has doubts over the projections made for new public transport links and the improved technological performance of aeroplanes. ‘This leads to underestimating the project’s environmental impacts and overestimating its socio-economic benefits,’ the statement reads.

The report calls for the developer to take another look at the scenarios ’particularly those relating to traffic, noise, air quality, greenhouse gas emissions and socio-economic assessment and consequently to reassess the avoidance, reduction and compensation measures to be implemented.’

It urges the developer and the French government ’to demonstrate the compatibility of the project with France’s commitment to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.’ It also calls for it to take account of the ‘national low carbon strategy, in particular by detailing the methods of offsetting project emissions after avoidance and reduction.’

The AE also recommends adding detail on the impact on bird life and compensatory steps that can be taken to improve bird habitats such as the site of Cossure.

In the light of these points, the AE has asked the airport to resubmit its plans.

An airport spokesperson confirmed receiving the demand but denied this would delay the expansion plans: ’We can confirm that our expansion project has not been delayed. The process is still ongoing.’

The spokesperson added: ’We will give the authority a statement with our feedback in September. The main matter regards the methodology used for our report. There are several possibilities to build development scenarios for an impact report. The one we used seems not to fully answer to the Environment Authority’s expectations. We will then complete our case file to strictly answer to their expectations and questions.’

The spokesperson said that there were no problems with the project’s design: ‘In regards to the content, the extension project has been thought to be virtuous.’

In 2017 Foster + Partners saw off competition from Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners (RSHP) to win the contest to design a new extension to the airport.

At the time the practice said the design would add the ‘missing piece’ to a 1992 addition by the Richard Rogers Partnership while ’restoring the clarity of layout and expression’ in Fernand Pouillon’s original Rational-Modernist 1960s building.

The first phase envisages a stainless steel clad scheme featuring a 22m-high glazed hall with an inverted beam roof and an ‘heroic’ span of glass skylights. The plan aims to merge the arrival and departure sequences into a single building and create ‘an intuitive progression’ through the terminal for passengers.

Statement from Foster + Partners

We have been appointed by the Aeroport Marseille Provence to design a terminal extension on a brownfield site adjacent to Marseille Airport’s terminal 1. Our sustainable design proposal will exceed the existing French HQE standard, (HQE Bâtiment Durable 2016 - Neuf, Très Performant), to align with the new E+C- standard, ensuring further energy and carbon efficiency. This new standard is currently being trialled in France and is expected to come into operation in 2020.

Our commitment to the Paris Agreement, which includes IPCC climate change projections for growth and decarbonisation in all sectors, is compatible with Architects Declare and the Net Zero Carbon Commitment

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