On Scene with Bill Wilson: SFO Control Tower Groundbreaking

Mayor Edwin M. Lee joined U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, Acting Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Administrator Michael P. Huerta, and San Francisco International Airport (SFO) Director John L. Martin to officially break ground on SFO’s new air traffic control tower between Terminal 1 and Terminal 2, east of the existing tower.

Transportation Secretary LaHood, SF Mayor Lee, Airport Director John Martin and William Withycombe FAA Western-Pacific region Administrator wield the shovels in a symbolic groundbreaking ceremony.

“The construction of SFO’s new air traffic control tower will provide the Airport with the most technologically advanced facility in the nation,” said Mayor Lee. “We are investing in our City’s critical infrastructure, providing a world-class International Airport and putting our residents back to work.”

“We’re building a world class tower for a world class airport,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary LaHood. “Hundreds of Bay Area construction workers will be employed in well-paying jobs while building this project to the strictest seismic standards.”

“The new tower will serve this growing airport for decades to come,” said Acting FAA Administrator Huerta. “Air traffic controllers will have a thoroughly modernized facility with better airfield views and the most up to date equipment.”

“San Francisco International Airport is extremely pleased to be partnering with the FAA on the construction of this landmark facility,” said Airport Director Martin. “The new air traffic control tower will not only meet or exceed the strictest seismic standards and contain the latest technology, but it will also be an iconic symbol of the Airport for generations to come.”

The new control tower will be 221 feet tall and will feature a 650 square-foot controller work area. The tower will sit atop a three-story, 44,000 square-foot base building, which will house administrative offices, computer equipment, a backup generator and secure corridors through which passengers can transit between terminals. The current tower, which the FAA commissioned in 1984, is about 180 feet tall and has a 520 square-foot controller work area.

The current air traffic control tower no longer meets current seismic standards and it is not cost effective to retrofit the facility. The seismic design for the new tower allows for the structure to withstand a magnitude 8 earthquake. The top of the tower has also been designed to not sway with wind loads to ensure better comfort for the controllers. It is estimated that more than 400 construction jobs and more than 200 support positions will be created during the construction of the tower and associated facilities.

Although the tower design is visually appealing and unique, it was actually designed based on strictly prescribed FAA functional requirements. The flared shape at the top of the tower shaft and below the cab provides room for state of the art FAA electronics and personnel necessary to operate. The cab offset on the tower was required for critical sight lines to the airfield directly below.

 

Model of the new Control Tower

The project goal is to achieve LEED Gold. Part of that initiative will be to provide solar panels, integrate eco-friendly mechanical and technical systems wherever practical, use sustainable building materials and construct the facility in the most environmentally responsible manner. The construction of the new tower is scheduled to be completed in the fall of 2014 and fully operational by the FAA in the fall of 2015.

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