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passenger experience. There’s a realisation that the airport is a visitor’s first and last impression of a city, so it should be a memorable one. A lot of the work we’re doing is making airports more comfortable for passengers and employees, with increased ventilation, improved air quality and daylighting.”

Delays are a fact of life at

San Francisco International Airport (SFO), as the Bay Area’s legendary fog means it is often restricted to using just one of its pair of runways. But SFO is becoming one of the world’s most pleasurable places to wait around, with a series of terminal renovation projects that are completely transforming the passenger experience, and setting new sustainability standards too.

With its high-end finishes and clusters of comfortable chairs, organic restaurants and even a yoga room, all bathed in natural light, the refurbished Terminal 2 has more in common with a boutique hotel than a conventional airport. The renovation of Terminal 3, on which WSP Genivar is working with architect Gensler, will take these concepts even further.

“Modern airports are starting to look more and more like hotels,” says Wayne Gaw, senior vice president at WSP Genivar. “In the US, many of the airports that were built in the fifties, sixties and seventies are being refurbished, and the latest projects are really changing the

WSP Genivar previously worked with Gensler on the north concourse of Terminal B at San Jose International Airport, completed in 2008, which replaced lines of hard seats in departures with lounge-style areas served by a displacement ventilation air distribution system: “It was a much more intimate and inviting space to wait for a flight, and the system improved comfort and air quality, as well as saving energy.”

One of Gaw’s favourite parts of San Francisco’s T3 is the “Recompose” area, just after security – usually one of the less positive experiences for travellers in the US. “Recompose is like a hotel lobby – you can get yourself back together, and there’s luxury furniture, nice lighting, a water- bottle filling station. It doesn’t feel like going through an airport at all.”

The retail and food offer is also a major departure from

older airports, and could even make the airport a destination in its own right. “By rethinking the passenger experience, they’ve been able to attract really high- end tenants at SFO,” explains Gaw. “Instead of fast food, grab- a-snack places, there’s high-end cuisine, everything is gourmet. At T3, there will be even more retail space, mainly food and beverage, because they’ve realised it’s an opportunity to make a lot more money. Restaurants with a San Francisco city destination might have a spot at the airport so people will think ‘I’ll get there a little bit earlier and go to that really good sushi place’.”

Both the San Francisco government and the SFO are committed to demonstrating high levels of sustainability. All municipal buildings or interior fit-out projects over 5,000ft2 must achieve a LEED Gold rating, and the City and County of San Francisco has set a goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 25% below 1990 levels by 2017. The airport’s emissions are already 19% lower than the baseline and it is well poised to meet the 25% target

through programmes such as on-site renewable energy systems, incorporating efficient building design principles into new projects, and increased recycling.

As project manager for the M&E systems on T3, Gaw is ensuring the internal environment will live up to high standards of passenger comfort, while meeting even more challenging targets on energy use. “We’re aiming for a minimum of LEED Gold, which is difficult at an airport because it’s very hard to get many of the credits that relate to the site itself. We’re going to be adding a large photovoltaic array on T3, but as energy codes get more stringent and the bar is continually being raised we need to start exploring new and innovative strategies.”

After all, today’s innovation can be tomorrow’s business as usual, he points out. “Back in 1995, we designed one of the first, and certainly the largest, displacement ventilation systems combined with radiant floor cooling in an airport for Bangkok International. It was very bold to do that in such a humid climate and people were worried about condensation forming on the floor. But it worked perfectly, and we’ve installed them all over the world since.”



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