Climate Action Award

The Harvey B. Milk Terminal 1

Architect: Woods Bagot / ED2 International / HKS / KYA / Gensler / Kuth Ranieri / Hamilton + Aitken Architects

Project Location: San Francisco, California

Photographer: Joe Fletcher and Jason O’Rear

Harvey Milk Terminal 1 is one of SFO’s largest projects to date, designed to accommodate a 70% increase in passenger capacity while achieving a 60% reduction in energy use from current operations. Terminal 1 sets a new benchmark for world-class air travel while reflecting Bay Area values. The design embodies a philosophy that induces a “quiet wow,” fostering a sense of discovery and delight, leaving a lasting impression of SFO that celebrates the joy of travel.

“A beautiful, high-performing project from top to bottom, earning high scores in all areas of sustainability – we hope airport designers around the country and world will take note of the innovations in San Francisco. Commendable performance criteria include:

  • Low energy people movers and baggage handling equipment
  • Active facade systems to control solar gains
  • FitWel certified airport
  • PEUI was reduced by 66%
  • Reduced embodied carbon by 16% through the careful selection of materials”

– 2022 Design Awards Jury

Design for Integration

Core to the project’s concept is embodying the characteristics of Bay Area Naturalism throughout the design as a means to encourage users’ wellbeing and sense of place, but the appreciation of the community and planet goes much deeper. In fact, the project team’s dedication to designing a sustainable and future-proof project that benefits today’s users and those to come yielded the world’s first-ever LEED v4 Platinum-certified airport terminal and a new template for sustainable design.

Design for Equitable Communities

Inspired by the legacy of Harvey Milk, the Terminal embodies the values of the San Francisco Bay Area, welcoming all. A variety of seating accommodates different activities and abilities. In addition to 2 play areas, and lactation rooms, each gate lounge has a family friendly area with child sized furniture. The first all gender restrooms at the airport provide equitable choice for all. Animal companions have pet restrooms and amenities too. T1 has convenient access to public transit, a safe pedestrian infrastructure, and access to free water supplies. It was designed to reduce stress through clear wayfinding and better lighting.

Design for Ecosystems

The Terminal is part of a larger airport campus that highly values the surrounding environment and ecology of the Bay Area. The airport is home to three federally protected species: The San Francisco garter snake, the California red-legged frog and the Ridgway’s rail and actively restores their habitat. Additionally the project supports these efforts by reducing the energy and carbon impacts through design to lessen the operating environmental impact over the decades that it will be in operation. Passengers are exposed to these efforts through a robust sustainability messaging program implemented in the terminal.

Design for Water

SFO is committed not just to water conservation, but also leading water stewardship. The T1 project is dual plumbed to utilize the upcoming on-site tertiary treated industrial wastewater for landscape and restroom flush fixtures. Low-flow, hands-free bathroom fixtures and faucets are projected to reduce water demands 33% below LEED baseline. Chilled water is provided from SFO’s Central Utility Plant whose Cooling Towers are operated in accordance with the LEED Cooling Tower Water Use credit, achieving at least 10 cooling tower cycles without exceeding maximum concentration parameters.

Design for Economy

To place the project in context, construction was executed in a high construction cost region and in the middle of an active airport and, despite the pandemic, the original schedule was maintained. The planning and design of the concourse allow for significant operational flexibility, providing excellent value for money for the owner. The gates are all capable of being used by any airline and aircraft, in any combination of international and domestic arrivals and departures; direct boarding from airline clubs is also possible. The Client has declared that this project is their new benchmark for future terminal improvements.

Design for Energy

Energy conservation and GHG reduction measures were prioritized at every project stage, resulting in a tremendous 59% EUI reduction and LEED Platinum accreditation. The project is poised to meet carbon zero emissions with the upcoming Central Utility Plant modernization. Highlights include: designing for an all-electric future; dynamic glazed windows to reduce peak solar loads and improve comfort; optimized glazing to harness daylight; tote-based baggage system that uses 50% less energy; Go-Slow escalators and moving walkways; energy regenerative elevators; radiant heating and cooling to complement displacement ventilation; and, 2.5 MW PV system that provides over 14% of the project’s energy use.

Design for Well-being

T1 is the first airport terminal in the world to achieve Fitwel certification. Daylighting through dramatic oculus skylights, clerestories in circulation ,aid in wayfinding and provide a sense of comfort and delight. Occupied spaces have expansive windows with views, dynamic (electrochromic) glazing providing high quality light while reducing glare. Human health was prioritized in material selection by utilizing the Precautionary Principle and Health Product Declarations (HPDs), low or no-VOC emitting products, and avoidance of pvc and flame retardants. Indoor air quality testing ventilation and air filtration systems are optimized for human health.

Design for Resources

Sustainable resource thinking was woven throughout the project’s design and construction process. Early whole building LCA informed opportunities for the use of low carbon concrete, steel, flooring and wallboard, leading to a 16% reduction in the project’s embodied carbon footprint. With the owner’s Zero Waste to Landfill goal, considerable attention was paid to the design of recycling, food scrap and waste receptacles and placement and construction waste management (achieving over 90% diversion). Embracing circular thinking, material selection prioritized materials designed for disassembly, with high recycled content and extended producer responsibility programs, including flooring, ceiling products, and furniture.

Design for Change

In addition to the robust sustainability goals established at the onset of the project, being at the nexus of innovation in San Francisco informed how the project team conceived of a forward-looking and adaptable terminal that would efficiently accommodate future needs and technological advances. Beyond the tech-enhanced wayfinding system that will adapt to new messaging needs over time, the design of the concourse and associated gates anticipate fluctuations in air travel now and in the future by being able to adjust to the needs of any airline and a diverse range of aircrafts for both domestic and international travel. Furthermore, the building’s net-zero net energy (ZNE) consumption plan and LEED v4 Platinum accreditation lay the groundwork for ongoing sustainability integrations to an already highly environmentally conscious design.

Design for Discovery

Inspired by the design of California’s picturesque landscapes, the new Harvey Milk Terminal 1 is choreographed as an episodic journey, shaped by themes of Bay Area Naturalism and the beauty of its regional environment. As a very large project made from many small, interconnected experiences, the terminal promotes discovery and delight through the design and crafting of its journey moments heightened by the intuitiveness of the architecture, integration of wayfinding, and crafting of local materials to guide the guests from landside to airside. At the onset of the design process our visionary client asked us to “dream big,” and we did. Both the Terminal 1 Center and Boarding Area B integrated design / build teams met regularly throughout the concept, schematic, and design development phases to vet ideas and refine directions. It was a rich process that harkened back to the academic design studio. The design process for the new Terminal 1 was facilitated by the unprecedented creation of the SFO Big Room, a 200-seat, 30,000 SF temporary office building that housed the design/build teams awarded the Terminal 1 project. This stand-alone enabling project built within a commercial airplane hangar encouraged cross-disciplinary collaboration between all disciplines working on the terminal. The space set the stage for real-time exchange that fostered long-term trusted relationships between the client, designers, and operators. In hindsight, this process led to a remarkably thoughtful series of interconnected design solutions; however, we feel the process could have been streamlined by introducing the role of a “design liaison” earlier in the process to expedite the stakeholders’ decision-making process. The lessons learned during the process are not surprising though, as the workplace model we invented to fit our needs was original and did not have an existing template for success, but this is what likely created the environment for innovation in which we all thrived. In addition to being our dynamic workplace, the Big Room also served as a think-tank and lab to test ideas through the construction of full-scale mockups as well as furniture and equipment pilots to ensure design intentions were realized and built outcomes would optimize access and delight for the users long-term.

AIA California
AIA California
AIA California is dedicated to serving its members, and uniting all architecture professionals in the design of a more just, equitable and resilient future through advocacy, education and political action. It celebrates more than 75 years of service and, today, is composed of more than 11,000 members across the state.

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