San Francisco Airport’s new Terminal 2 goes eco-chic

Aiming to be a model of sustainable building and relaxing travel, San Francisco International Airport (SFO) has just opened its renovated Terminal 2 (T2). The USD383 million facility is the new home for Virgin America and American Airlines domestic flights.

Green standards
Built on the footprint of the old terminal from 1954, SFO’s new T2 will become the first LEED Gold-certified airport terminal in the U.S. and re-uses about 90 percent of the materials from the original building, including terrazzo flooring made from recycled glass chips. Other sustainable building techniques include walls of windows that makes most daytime artificial lighting unnecessary and a new ventilation system that requires 20 percent less energy. A stand-alone plumbing system for the toilets is supplied with reclaimed ‘gray’ water from the airport’s treatment plant, reducing water consumption by 40 percent.

Noticeable eco-friendly features for passengers are energy efficient mood lighting in the ticketing area, ‘hydration stations’ to refill water bottles post-security, organic and local food options, and waste recycling and composting bins placed throughout the terminal.

Hydration stations
As regulations prohibit taking bottled water through security, San Francisco’s T2 encourages passengers to empty their plastic containers before entering the screening area. After passing through the checkpoint, passengers can stop at so-called ‘hydration stations’ to refill their water bottles for free. SFO hopes the hydration stations will encourage passengers to reduce waste and in February 2011 also installled a similar facility at its Terminal 3. For those that want to purchase bottled water post-security, vendors at T2 are only allowed to sell water in compostable bottles.

Local, organic food
The food and beverages outlets in the terminal focuses on locally grown and produced food. For example, the majority of vendors at the ‘Napa Farms’ food marketplace are artisan merchants, producers and growers from the San Francisco Bay Area. There are also ‘picnic boxes’ available for takeout and airport wine bar Vino Volo has opened a Bay Area-focused wine bar. “The whole idea is that you feel like you’re in San Francisco, with an emphasis on local, organic produce,” says Raymond Quesada, project manager at SFO. “People don’t want to see those chain, repetitive, boring types of approaches. They want to see locally grown, organic companies.” Under their leases, food sellers also must use biodegradable utensils and packaging that can be composted and turned into fertilizer. Compost bins are prominently displayed in the terminal.

De-stressing travel
T2 also represents an attempt to take some stress out of air travel. Says Steve Weindel, principal architect on the project, “In T2, our goal is to reset traveller expectations. We’re striving to de-stress the travel experience, offer passengers a healthful, sustainable environment, and even delight people with fun things to do.”

The terminal’s sweeping design, with its soft curves and natural light, should appeal to passengers and check-in facilities are housed in a sleek, wood-paneled lobby illuminated by mood lighting. After passing through security, passengers enter a ‘Recompose Zone’, an open space with cushioned ottomans that offer travellers a place to gather their belongings without feeling rushed.

On a similar note, the terminal’s gate areas offer living-room like waiting areas with white leather sofas and retro ’egg’ chairs, elevated white ceilings for abundant natural light and art exhibits with cellphone-accessible narrations of the works by guides. Children’s play areas feature wooden xylophones and a glass-enclosed case of mechanical butterflies that ‘fly’ by turning a crank, then flutter back down. The gate areas also offer work-oriented desks with power outlets and free Wi-Fi is available throughout the terminal.

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