Taking Control At San Francisco International

 The airport’s new air-traffic control tower meets high-performance design and LEED Gold criteria.

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San Francisco International Airport’s 221-ft.-tall, torch-shaped tower’s façade consists of curved metal panels and a vertical glass band that is illuminated to colorfully glow at night.

San Francisco International Airport (SFO) and the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA’s) first-of-its-kind airport traffic-control tower and integrated facility relies on Wausau Window and Wall Systems’, Wausau, WI, products to meet multiple performance requirements. The new $80-million, 221-ft.-tall, torch-shaped tower has improved safety, security, and design standards, and has obtained LEED Gold status. The seismic design for the tower allows the structure to withstand a Richter magnitude 8 earthquake.

SFO’s previous air-traffic control tower was built in 1984. The new tower and integrated facility’s conceptual design was created by airport master architecture firm HNTB, San Francisco. Fentress Architects, San Francisco, served as architect-of-record, and Hensel Phelps, San Jose, CA, led the design-build team. The collaborative approach resulted in a distinctive design that is seismically sound and meets the FAA’s strict requirements.

The “cab” at the top of the tower features a cantilevered roof and windows to give controllers an unobstructed view of the airfield below. The tower façade consists of curved metal panels and a vertical glass band that is illuminated to colorfully glow at night.

The base of the new SFO tower includes a corridor and a secure connector between Terminals 1 and 2, FAA office space, and improvements to the Terminal 1 Boarding Area C entrance. The corridor offers a unique glass skylight, which provides visitors views directly up the full height of the tower. The secure connector bridge also offers unobstructed views of the runways, a rest area with seating, and an adjoining yoga room.

Construction began in summer 2012, was ready for FAA equipment installation in summer 2015, and opened in autumn 2016. Construction manager, T2 Partners, New York, selected Architectural Glass & Aluminum (AGA), Livermore, CA, as the glazing contractor. AGA relied on Wausau’s systems to meet the aesthetic, acoustic, blast hazard mitigating (BHM), seismic, thermal, and other performance specifications of SFO’s unique facility.

The “cab” at the top of the tower features a cantilevered roof and windows to give controllers an unobstructed view of the airfield below.

The “cab” at the top of the tower features a cantilevered roof and windows to give controllers an unobstructed view of the airfield below.

AGA installed more than 4,000 sq. ft. of Wausau’s four-sided, silicone-glazed curtainwall, including SuperWall 8250 series curtainwall, INvision 7250-UW series unitized curtainwall, and 7250 series BHM curtainwall, plus INvent 3250i series in-swing casement thermal windows.

In addition, AGA installed Tubelite Inc.’s, Walker, MI, ForceFront Blast entrance systems. All of Wausau’s BHM series products and Tubelite’s ForceFront Blast products are designed for compliance with the General Services Administration Inter-Agency Security Committee’s (GSA ISC) security design criteria and the Department of Defense United Facilities Criteria (DoD UFC) 4-010-01 requirements.

“As doors, windows, and curtainwall encounter the extreme pressures released by an explosive mass, all elements of the assembly work together to withstand the blast load and dissipate its energy. Instead of the historical design practice of specifying thick windows with rigid frames, modern blast-mitigating assemblies are designed to be flexible, and absorb, rather than resist, blast energy,” explained Tubelite’s product manager, Tom Mifflin.

Drawing from more than a decade of experience on dozens of major BHM projects, the associates at Tubelite and Wausau applied their technical expertise to interpret the lexicon of hazard mitigation and to achieve safety, security, cost effectiveness, and timely completion. Mifflin continued, “Whether building a new structure or replacing, renovating, and modernizing an existing facility, Tubelite’s and Wausau’s systems help design-build teams to create elegant, daylight-filled, energy-efficient, and safe buildings. Creating a comfortable, quiet environment promotes concentration and productivity, which is essential to air-traffic control.”

The base of the new SFO tower includes a corridor that offers a unique glass skylight, which provides visitors views directly up the full height of the tower.

The base of the new SFO tower includes a corridor that offers a unique glass skylight, which provides visitors views directly up the full height of the tower.

Further contributing to the project’s sustainability goals, the aluminum used to produce Wausau’s curtainwall and window systems is a high recycled-content aluminum billet composition with durable finishes by Linetec, Wausau, WI. Linetec captures the liquid paints’ volatile organic compounds (VOCs) content using a 100% air-capture system and safely destroys the VOCs with a regenerative thermal oxidizer. Linetec then re-uses its heat-energy byproduct to improve process energy efficiency. This process of re-use is completed before the material exits the paint line.

For the new SFO facility, Linetec applied a Duranar Sunstorm Galaxy Silver color, 50% polyvinylidene fluoride (PVDF) resin based, two-coat, liquid coating on the interior-facing aluminum framing members. For greater protection on the exterior, weather-exposed surfaces, a three-coat Duranar Sunstorm XL Silver color, 70% PVDF liquid coating was applied. Applied under Linetec’s factory-controlled processes, these finishes meet the American Architectural Manufacturers Association’s (AAMA) 2605 industry standards, as well as minimize buildings’ maintenance costs and maximize long lifecycles.

Along with sustainably produced finish materials and natural daylight, the SFO facility’s other LEED-recognized features include photovoltaic panels, a roof garden, low-flow plumbing fixtures, energy-efficient HVAC systems, programmable LED lighting, and electric-vehicle charging stations.

“Our goal is to be an exceptional airport, in service to our communities,” stated airport director Ivar C. Satero. “Looking ahead, our focus is on the ongoing development of our airport infrastructure, to ensure that SFO can grow efficiently and continue to make a positive economic contribution in the Bay Area.”


datacache— Learn about ForceFront Blast.

— More about Wausau curtainwalls.

— Read about Linetec coatings.

— Take a video tour of SFO.

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