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Sneak Peak: SFO’s Terminal 2 Goes Green

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Friend of IT Alison Brick checks out the renovation at SFO’s Terminal 2.

It’s been a long time coming, but San Francisco International Airport’s Terminal 2 is just about cleared for take-off.

The $383-million renovation project to modernize and green the terminal started back in 2008, but T2 has been closed even longer– it shut its doors when another terminal replaced it as SFO’s international wing in 2000. A lot has happened since then– seismic retrofitting, a raised roof, new windows and skylights for more natural daylight, and the introduction of features “to elevate the travel experience and bring back the glamour to commercial aviation.” Terminal 2 is even expected to get a new title with the new look: the first LEED Gold-registered airport in the U.S.

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When imagining the new T2, the airport designers found answers to some of the inconveniences in modern-day air travel: a ‘recomposure’ area after the security lines, a gate-side water bottle refill station, and a meet-and-greet lobby before baggage claim. During those thumb-twirling layover hours, travelers can go to 12 restaurants, 9 retail stores, a wine bar, spa, and a gourmet marketplace that resembles San Francisco’s Ferry Building.
With the ability to start from a clean slate and, let’s be honest, because it’s San Francisco, the new T2 is all about sustainability. The bells and whistles are all shades of green: paperless ticketing, preferential hybrid/electric car parking, energy-efficient lighting, filtered air ventilation, reclaimed water reuse. The food vendors will compost and recycle, and offer organic, locally sourced food that’s served with biodegradable tableware.

When I joined a preview tour of the terminal recently, what I liked best fell into both the functional and the superfluous categories: Long tables near the gates and an abundance of outlets. Colorful, oversized, comfortable chairs. The absence of TVs and their chatterbox noise. The cheeky purple lighting in Virgin’s gate markers–a nod to the airline’s signature in-flight mood lighting.

I liked the return of artwork that had been cooped up in storage since 1983, as well as new modern designs like Topograph and Every Beating Second. Kids get art of their own, integrated into their two play areas–bird-themed wooden xylophones and a mechanical butterfly wall. Both were designed by artists from the city’s educational science museum, the Exploratorium.

Kudos for the terminal’s redesign go to architectural firm Gensler–the group that transformed the same SFO terminal into the international terminal in 1983. They’ve also worked on projects at JFK and SJC (San Jose Mineta).

When the terminal opens on Thursday, April 14, two airlines will christen the 14 gates–Virgin America and American Airlines. If you’ll be in San Francisco on Saturday, April 9, you can get a preview at the open house , and meet the artists with work on display or compete in an eco-challenge. The event is free to attend, but you’ll want to sign up in advance for the hour-long time slots. Photos: Above, courtesy of San Francisco International Airport; Below, by Alison Brick

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