Having served over 17 million passengers in 2012 alone, San Diego International Airport is the busiest single-runway, commercial airport in the United States. The recent $900 million expansion—the largest in the airport’s history—adds to its notable legacy and marks a significant commitment to improving the experience for travelers using the airport.
The curtain wall over Sunset Cove is made up of
350 individual windows that took over 30,000
manhours to install. Behind the stunning window,
the expansion doubles the dining and shopping
space previously available to travelers.
An average of 50,000 people pass
through San Diego International Airport
daily, making it one of the busiest
airports of its kind in the world.
Dubbed the Green Build, the expansion is a joint venture between PCL, Turner Construction, and Flatiron Construction focused on sustainability and leading-edge environmental practices at each step. These include incorporating 20,000 tons of recycled aggregate into 1.5 million square feet of taxiway and airport paving, and adopting energy conservation practices that resulted in energy savings of 30 percent over and above levels set by California’s stringent environmental laws. In fact, the Terminal 2 expansion was recently certified as LEED ® Platinum—making it the only airport terminal in the world to receive the coveted recognition.
Building Features That Will Stand the Test of Time
The expansion features a signature, 16,500-square-foot curved and sloped glass curtain wall that offers dramatic views of the runway to travelers enjoying the airport’s new dining venue, Sunset Cove. As with any build, maintaining a dependable structure in the face of sometimes difficult natural conditions is paramount. The unique floor-to ceiling windows of Sunset Cove posed a challenge to accommodating Southern California’s high probability for earthquakes.
To solve this engineering challenge, the project team made use of mock-ups and virtual models of the structure to ensure that the 99-ton curtain wall could withstand the required seismic activity. This step—essentially “constructing” virtual and miniature replicas before building the full-scale model—helped project engineers design the curtain wall with pins and rollers that can move up to 24 inches independently of the terminal while retaining structural integrity.
A Construction Site out of Sight
Because this project was an expansion of an existing airport rather than construction of an entirely new building, consideration had to be given to the many connections between the two structures. In addition to some 225 beam and column connections that had to fit seamlessly, the expansion had to tie into the existing baggage handling, piping, and electrical systems. To identify all the required connections, the project team undertook an extensive forensic analysis of the existing terminals, ensuring before construction began that the new structure could be built to function in harmony with the airport’s other terminals.
Construction on this scale can be noisy, dusty, and obstructive. When the site is also a working airport, passenger safety and inconvenience are additional concerns. Thanks to temporary partitions and walls separating construction from the passenger areas—sometimes by as little as a few inches—the 445,000-square-foot expansion was completed with little inconvenience to passengers. This meant that, for many, their only experience of the expansion was of the completed facilities rather than of a traveler-unfriendly construction site.