Student blog of the Stanford University Urban Studies Department

SFO’s New Terminal


As Stanford students, we live in the midst of a never-ending construction project and thus construction outside of the bubble seems routine and unremarkable.  I wouldn’t be surprised if those of us who use SFO Airport as a gateway home failed to notice the enormous, and really quite remarkable, project that has been going on there for the last 3 years. The project is a brand new domestic terminal—housing American Airlines and Virgin Airlines— and was finally opened to the public this past weekend (April 9th). 

It is a bit misleading, however, to call it brand new, when 90% of the building materials were recycled from the old terminal built in 1954. This is a remarkable feat given building codes and energy efficiency requirements.  The new terminal, called T2, does not only pass the energy efficiency test, however, it jumps way beyond all California codes and will most likely become the first LEED Gold-certified airport terminal in the US. Cool! Well actually I didn’t know what LEED was at first, let alone what it takes to become “gold” certified. I looked it up though and found that LEED provides certification, through a neutral/outsider party, about how “green” or eco-friendly a building is.  The LEED website points out that achieving gold level certification is a huge challenge and very impressive for a commercial site. 

The reused building materials are not the only eco-friendly components earning SFO the recognition.  The new terminal recycles 75% of solid waste (meaning all the utensils and food will be recyclable like it is here at Stanford), uses recycled water for toilets, provides pre-conditioned air to all of the gated planes, saving 15,000 tons of CO2 emissions/yr (WOW!), and incorporates energy efficient lighting, including row upon row of skylights. Currently, these measures are only implemented in T2, but SFO says that it will soon extend these measures to apply to the whole airport.

A final feature of the terminal is what SFO is calling “hydration stations.” Essentially this is just a clever way of saying they are going to place fancy water faucets around the terminal where you can fill up reusable (or presumably any sort of) water bottles.  Yes, this is just a gimmick, cherry-on-top feature, but I am sure I will have a goofy smile on my face the first time I go to fill up my bottle in the terminal 😀  

~taylor mcadam


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