SFO T3: The Air Up There

SFO, T3, Terminal 3, San Francisco, Gensler, Turner Construction, Hensel Phelps, Thornton Tomasetti, The KPA Group, Hamilton + Aitken Architects, Robin Chiang & Co.

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SFO brings the latest of amenities to its storied terminals.


By Robert Carlsen

[dropcap]B[/dropcap]uoyed by positive public and private response to its design of San Francisco International Airport reconfigured Terminal 2 (the former international terminal), architecture firm Gensler had a host of tried-and-true sustainable and hospitality ideas for the redesign of a boarding area in Terminal 3.

T2, which was originally built in 1954, reopened in April 2011 after a massive $383 million renovation through a design-build partnership between Turner Construction and Gensler. Today it is used by American Airlines, one of its first tenants, and Virgin America airlines, and it is the nation’s first LEED Gold-Registered Terminal and one of the most modern and sustainable terminals in the United States. It’s the larger of the two projects at 640,000 square feet, covering 14-gates. Work on T3 had been broken down into two phases, Terminal 3 Boarding Area E, which wrapped up this past January at a cost of $138 million, and Terminal 3 East Connector and Checkpoint, which is scheduled to be completed by the summer of 2015 at a cost of $209 million.

[pullquote_right]”We learned from the T2 project about certain passenger conveniences that were extremely popular, then we amped it up with T3,” Melissa Mizell, one of Gensler’s main design directors on the project.[/pullquote_right]Gensler’s main design directors on T2 project, principal Jeff Henry and senior associate Melissa Mizell, also took control of the T3 effort.

“San Francisco International wanted to replicate the success of T2, so before the T3 project began we held a visioning session on site at the old BAE, collecting ideas from all parties,” said Henry. All existing concession leases were re-done for a newer, fresher, healthier offering.

The team, which included general contractor Hensel Phelps, learned from T2 that today’s airline passenger wanted certain “comforting” things in the holdrooms, post-security concessions and restrooms, Henry said.

“We learned from the T2 project about certain passenger conveniences that were extremely popular,” said Mizell. “Then we amped it up with T3.”

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T3 BAE is seeking a LEED Gold certification. Gensler and Hensel Phelps led the team that also included The KPA Group, Hamilton + Aitken Architects, Robin Chiang & Co. and sustainability consultants Thornton Tomasetti.

Boarding Area E is only the first phase of the Terminal 3 East project, according to airport spokesman Doug Yakel. The second phase, now under way, will connect Boarding Areas E and F with a new concourse. Gensler and Hensel Phelps are again teaming up for this $209-million project, along with PGH Wong Engineering. The new concourse features a new security checkpoint with up to 10 lanes and new “wait time” security checkpoint technology, an additional three boarding gates and expanded concessions and guest amenities.

One of the most important amenities incorporated in the T3 BAE project was “power,” Henry said, as in 375 power outlets and nine state-of-the-art work stations, plus free WiFi throughout. Following the success of a yoga room in T2, Henry said they added another in T3, along with restrooms that include private changing rooms and nursing areas with comfortable loungers for mothers and their children.

“We also added a flight deck concept (designed by Razorfish) that provides interactive, extensive information about SFO, displacement ventilation for a more comfortable environment, free filtered water from hydration stations, healthier food options, super comfy lounge furniture and adaptive circadian lighting in holdrooms,” he said.

Sustainable design furthers SFO’s goal of becoming carbon neutral, said Jay Wilson, Gensler’s construction manager. With new identical, unitized skylights across the ceilings at, natural light is one of the project’s main focal points at Boarding Area E. In addition, “vertical fins on the exterior east and west façades add interest and rhythm to the building while providing a more human scale, and when combined with the high-performance glass they reduce heat gains throughout the day,” Wilson said.

Other sustainable elements include terrazzo flooring with recycled glass chips, recycled-content carpet, and wood certified by the Forest Stewardship Council.

Energy efficiency is another priority, Wilson said. The main energy uses within the building are fan power for ventilation and interior lighting. He said fans use the energy-saving displacement ventilation system deployed successfully in Terminal 2 and interior lighting is at least 15 percent more efficient than the maximum allowed by the state’s energy code. The project also includes solar photovoltaic panels to offset some of its electrical load.

The holistic atmosphere of the area is highlighted by certain San Francisco “cultureal” elements, such as four restaurants (local favorites including Klein’s Deli and Mission Bar & Grill) and eight stores, including two “pop-up” shops (with six-month leases). Also, a children’s play area is strategically tucked between the restaurants.

What also drove the success of the two terminal projects was the design-build construction delivery system, which SFO’s Yakel described as “our preferred approach.” This gave the team the time to work out complicated design aspects in a compacted schedule before construction actually begins. “We had the time, for example, to discuss variations of design ideas with the general contractor and SFO in order to find the best and least expensive way,” said Mizell.

Photos courtesy of Gensler

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