USA’s First LEED Gold Airport Terminal Unveiled at SFO

Although the aircraft parked at its gates may leave a sizable carbon footprint, San Francisco airport’s newly refurbished terminal two (T2) aims to tread a little more lightly by aiming to be the USA’s first LEED Gold certified terminal. On April 6th 2011, San Francisco Mayor, Edwin Lee unveiled the 640,000 square-foot facility which will house both American Airlines and Virgin America. Flights will begin from the terminal on April 14th.

Originally opened in 1954, T2 has been remodeled by Turner Construction and Gensler, who have been able to complete the $383 million project by recycling 90% of the original building content while creating 2,700 local jobs. The terminal will offer a showcase for sustainability. As described by U.S. EPA’s Pacific Southwest Regional Administrator, Jared Blumenfeld, some 40 million people pass through SFO each year. These passengers will be able to learn how green buildings save energy, water, building materials and money. T2 will offer the following sustainable features:

Natural Light – via skylights which will allow daylight through to ticketing and retail areas

Cleaner Air – via a displacement ventilation system which will filter air while using 25 % less fan energy over typical ventilation systems

Car-Free connection – provided to the Bay Area’s rapid transit system BART

Zero Waste – through use of separate receptacles for recycling, composting and trash

Locally-Grown food concessions – which will be offering healthy organic options, as well as using bio-degradable table ware and the composting of food waste

Water Conservation – through water reclamation which will be used for flushing toilets and through the use of plumbing fixtures which use 40% less water than typical ones

Paperless Ticketing – to be used throughout the terminal

Energy Efficiency – via energy efficient lighting and terminal machinery. SFO officials project energy use reductions of 2.9 giga watts per year, as well as reductions in natural gas consumption of 116,000 therms a year – will result in 1,640 tons less CO2 emissions each year.

Sustainable Building Materials – through the use of flooring materials utilizing recycled glass and carpeting incorporating recycled content, along with efficient use of structural steel.

A number of cool features have been provided for travelers: Free wi-fi will be provided within the terminal, and a “recompose area” just past security will be a relaxed space where passengers can gather themselves together after the usual hassle of removing shoes, laptops, belts, etc. Hydration stations will also be on hand where people can refill their own re-usable water bottles, to avoid buying bottled water.

In addition to the features available to the general passenger, members of American Airlines Admirals Club will be able to enjoy the comfort of a separate lounge that is expected to receive its own LEED Silver certification.

Air travel will not be environmentally friendly anytime soon, but refurbishments such as these will expose sustainability concepts to the traveling public which has to be a good thing . But most importantly, it’s easy to recognize how utility costs will be substantially reduced in operating the new T2, which provides a strong business case to airport operators to develop such smart buildings.

People local to SFO will be able to experience the new T2 at an open house being held on Saturday April 9th.

Phil Covington holds an MBA in Sustainable Management from Presidio Graduate School. In the past, he spent 16 years in the freight transportation and logistics industry. Today, Phil's writing focuses on transportation, forestry, technology and matters of sustainability in business.

2 responses

  1. Great article! SF has been doing amazing things in the green industry, from fair trade to energy efficiency. It’s newest step in becoming an LEED certified airport sets a powerful example for the rest of the country, if not the rest of the world!

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