Louisville Muhammad Ali International Airport

Case study

Louisville Muhammad Ali International Airport Achieves 40% Energy Savings with Geothermal

Recognizing the major role the aviation industry plays in climate change, Louisville Muhammad Ali International Airport (SDF) developed the SDF Next Program to improve energy efficiency and access to alternative fuel sources.  

As a part of the program, SDF commissioned several improvements and upgrades to the airport to optimize efficiency and achieve its Energy Sustainability Focus Area goals. The initiative provided $400 million for improvements to the terminal and airfield in the coming years, including the installation of the largest geothermal HVAC system of any U.S. airport.

CMTA was selected as Construction Manager at Risk (CMaR) by the Louisville Regional Airport Authority to (LRAA) to design and manage the construction of the new system, resulting in $400,000 in annual utility savings.

Customer Needs

As the first of its kind, the SDF geothermal system installation marks a pioneering step in the mission to decarbonize the aviation industry.

SDF had a range of objectives:

  • Reduce energy use
  • Enhance indoor air quality
  • Meet Energy Sustainability Focus Area goals
  • Inspire decarbonization efforts in aviation

Adhering to the project’s budget and schedule was a top priority. Given the project’s scope, a phased approach was adopted to streamline the approval process while maintaining efficient progress.  

CMTA was chosen for its:

  • Commitment to cost-savings
  • Transparent pricing model
  • Demonstrated success with LRAA
Key Strategies Implemented

CMTA assessed the aging systems and infrastructure throughout the airport to align them with its energy reduction goals. The geothermal HVAC system was the largest project to come out of the assessment, including 648 vertical wells each drilled 500 feet deep.

The plan was designed in a multi-phase approach to replace the existing hot and chilled water air handling units with geothermal heat pumps.

Benefits of the geothermal system include:  

  • 40% energy reduction to traditional systems;
  • 80% carbon footprint reduction;  
  • $400,000 in heating and cooling cost savings annually;  
  • less maintenance required over time;  
  • 100,000 square feet of future expansion;
  • 2-3x the traditional system life span.
Consulting Engineering
Energy Solutions
Louisville, KY
project size
Year Completed


Net Zero incentives

Federal Aviation Administration’s Voluntary Airport Low Emissions (VALE) grant


Beyond the overall innovation of this project, it further confirms our commitment to providing best-in-class facilities for our passengers, while also being an industry leader in reducing carbon emissions and saving energy. This is a win-win any way you look at it.

Dan Mann
Executive Director, Louisville Regional Airport Authority
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