SFO dedicates rakish new air control tower

A new air traffic control tower unveiled in a dedication ceremony at San Francisco International Airport Tuesday is as graceful as it is functional.

The 221-foot tall tower, which includes up-to-the minute ground radar technology and a design that should withstand an 8.0 earthquake, was an unusual joint project between SFO and the Federal Aviation Administration, with the airport supervising the design and construction work to federal standards, officials said Tuesday.

The agencies shared costs, with the FAA paying about $82 million while SFO paid around $69 million to integrate the tower into the existing airport complex and add design touches to the building’s façade including an exterior LED lighting array.

FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said:

“What we needed at the FAA was a new air traffic control tower that met current seismic standards and all of our operational needs. … SFO wanted a tower that reflected the city and its unique culture and distinguished itself from every other air traffic control tower in the national system.”

The flared design, emphasized by a ribbon of glass panels on one side, ends in a 650 square foot cab area that will give air traffic controllers a clear view of runways and taxiways, while also providing a distinctive architectural note to the airport, officials said.

It has also received LEED Gold certification, signifying a high level of environmental sustainability in its design, for features including solar panels, the use of daylight, a roof garden, low flow plumbing, an electric car charging station and energy efficient equipment.

Mayor Ed Lee said:

“This tower is innovative, it’s got the environmental sustainability, and ultimately I think it is iconic.”

The tower, which is located between Terminal 1 and Terminal 2, also includes a three-story, 44,000 square foot base building that includes office space, computer equipment, generators and secure corridors that allow passengers to pass between terminals without accessing the tower itself.

Construction on the new tower, which replaces a tower that has been in operation since 1954, began in 2012.

Airport Director Ivar Satero said the tower was part of a $5.7 billion capital program at the airport planned for the next five years that will also include the renovation of Terminal 1 and the construction of a new hotel at the airport.

Satero said:

“We’re very proud to have another iconic symbol representing design excellence and a providing beacon of safety for the people of the San Francisco Bay Area and travelers around the world.”