Designed to withstand a magnitude 8.0 earthquake this new traffic control tower was built under a design-build delivery method
A new, environmentally friendly airport traffic control tower has opened at San Francisco International Airport (SFO) designed by Fentress Architects of Denver. With an iconic, sculptural profile, the new tower is 221 ft tall. The 650 sq ft controller work area gives air traffic controllers unobstructed 235-degree views of SFO’s runways and taxiways. Its twisting facade is informed by the colour, massing and materials of the existing terminal.
There are a few unusual conditions under which the tower was built. One is that the FAA and the airport shared the cost of the project; the FAA paid for the costs associated with building of the tower, while SFO paid for integrating the tower into the existing airport complex, as well as the facility’s striking design features.
This is also the first FAA-approved control tower built under a design-build delivery method. Fentress worked hand-in-hand with Hensel Phelps, the construction management firm. Preliminary concept design was done by HNTB Architects.
A third important aspect of this structure is that it is designed and engineered to very high seismic standards, not surprising for the airport of San Francisco. The new tower is designed to withstand a magnitude 8.0 earthquake.
Located between Terminals 1 and 2, the tower features a 147 ft tall ribbon of glass running down the middle of the structure. The glass reflects sunlight during the day and is illuminated by interior lighting at night.
The cab, or portion of the tower in which air traffic controllers operate, features clear, laminated and seamless glass to maximize the controller’s views; it integrates a post-tension system that will not sway with wind loads.
The project includes a three-story, 44,000 sq ft base building, which houses computer equipment, a backup generator, and secure corridors that allow passengers to transit between terminals without affording access to the tower. It also provides administrative offices for the air traffic controllers that feature an unusually open plan, a courtyard and a green roof where staff can rest between shifts at what is considered one of the world’s most stressful occupations. (SFO is the nation’s 11th busiest airport in 2015 with about 430,000 takeoffs and landings.)
A host of green environmental features earned the project LEED Gold status, including solar panels installed on a nearby building roof; natural daylight in offices and the public lobby; a roof garden and reflective roofing, which reduce heat gain from the roof; low-flow plumbing fixtures; recycled building materials; an electric vehicle charging station; and energy efficient mechanical and electrical equipment.
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