Marseilles Provence Airport expansion plans by Foster + Partners

Foster + Partners' Marseille airport plans come under scrutiny for carbon emissions

A glazed terminal building at Marseille Provence Airport designed by Foster + Partners has come under fire from France's environmental authorities over fears it could hinder France's target to be carbon-neutral by 2050.

The Autorité Environnementale (AE) issued a report calling on the developer Aeroport Marseille Provence (AMP) and the French state to "demonstrate the compatibility of the project with the commitment of France to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050".

France wrote its pledge to reduce it's carbon output to net zero by 2050 into law in June 2019. It also plans to reduce its fossil fuel consumption by 40 per cent by 2030.

Airport will be carbon efficient claims architects

Foster + Partners has designed the glazed terminal building to link Marseille Provence Airport's original 1960s building with the 1990s extension designed by Richard Rogers. The plans include a pier with 12 aerobridges for passengers to embark and disembark and are projected to increase the airport's capacity to 12 million passengers a year.

The studio defended the sustainable credentials of it design.

"Our sustainable design proposal will exceed the existing French HQE standard to align with the new E+C- standard, ensuring further energy and carbon efficiency," a spokesperson for Foster + Partners told Dezeen.

The E+C- standard is a new certification for energy positive, low carbon building projects, which is being introduced after the 2016 Paris Agreement where UN countries pledged to lower carbon emissions.

However, the AE warned that oversights in studies carried out by the airport's developers could have underestimated the level of carbon emissions that will be produced by expanding the airport's capacity.

"The study is generally well documented but has major methodological flaws in the definition of the study scenarios, leading to the attribution in full to the achievement of the effects that are not entirely related to it... or even totally disconnected," reads the report.

"This leads to underestimating the impacts project and overestimate its socio-economic benefits."

Extension plans should be reassessed say authorities 

Public transport connectivity and improvements in aircraft performance are some of the things listed by the AE as unrelated factors that underplay the level of emissions versus benefit. The AE has also suggested that the impact on local birdlife be reassessed.

"In view of the substantial nature of these amendments, the AE considers that the current proposal be submitted again for opinions," said the AE report.

Foster + Partners has recently made several public pledges to help tackle climate change, promising to make all its offices carbon neutral by 2030 and joining Architects Declare, a collective of leading architecture firms that have publicly announced their commitment to combating climate change.

Asked if the Marseille Provence Airport expansion project is compatible with these goals was compatible with these intentions, a Foster + Partners spokesperson said:

"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."

Foster + Partners, which was founded by Norman Foster in 1967, recently unveiled designs for an Uber Air Skyport in California.