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Home stretch arrives in four-year Green Build

Back in August 2010, the level of construction activity at San Diego International Airport’s Green Build project was highlighted by foundational pile driving tests, and preparing for the demolition of the second pedestrian bridge standing in the path of a new dual-level roadway in front of Terminal 2.

The Terminal 2 expansion, which is what the piles being tested were need for, hadn’t even begun yet.

Fast-forward two-and-a-half years later, to nearly four years after the earliest construction began. The light at the end of the terminal is near.

Billed as a chance to allow for expanded airport operations and capacity, provide more revenue for the airport, more jobs for the region and a more sustainable and environmentally friendly airport, the Green Build is scheduled for completion in August.

On March 26, a prelude of what’s to come operationally from the Green Build was unveiled: an expanded security checkpoint in Terminal 2. It was the first part of the project to open to the public.

“It’s beautiful,” airport spokeswoman Katie Jones said. “It’s hard to think of a checkpoint as beautiful, but this one really does the job.”

Giving a view of the terminal’s new terrazzo flooring, chosen for its durability and aesthetics, the expanded checkpoint is about 29,000 square feet, or about six times larger than the old checkpoint. It has room for up to 12 lanes instead of the six supported by the previous one.

Last summer, construction workers installed the last windows on the exterior of the airport’s newest concessions area. Sunset Cove, one of the more prominent features of the Green Build, will provide space for 38 new retail and food vendors, using the new centralized receiving and distribution in the airport’s growing north side campus as its logistical hub. It will include a wine bar, live musical performance space and public art.

The exterior construction of Sunset Cove took more than six months to complete. With floor-to-ceiling windows, the curtain-walled structure rises to 50 feet above the ground.

Its complexity is perhaps what makes it so impressive, as it’s not only angled outward from ground level, but is also curved from bottom to top and side-to-side.

In an area prone to earthquakes, that type of design requires extensive seismic engineering, and Dan McGuckin, project manager for Turner Construction, said extensive off-site testing of the curtain wall was needed to ensure its longevity.

A full-sized mock of it was used to complete the testing in Los Angeles. The wall had to be able to allow for a 12-inch movement of the building with the curtain wall remaining intact.

“Twelve inches is a long ways, with a rigid glass-type system,” McGuckin said, especially when Sunset Cove is being designed to create an open feel with minimal columns.

To achieve the required movement, crews installed a sliding pin system at the roof level, allowing the roof to move independently of the curtain wall.

Beyond the checkpoint and the concessions will be the new gates at Terminal 2. The airport is shooting for convenience there, too, and said it plans for 50 percent of the seats at the new gates to be powered, allowing for mobile phone or device plug-in.

“So it really is going to be an enhanced passenger experience,” Jones said.

Project milestones came in time.

Last May, construction crews worked to complete in one night — in just more than six hours — the installation of the two new pedestrian bridges in front of Terminal 2. They’ll connect the new dual-level roadway to the terminal, and were assembled on-site and then moved into position by trailer.

Dual-level roadways at terminals are not uncommon at other airports, but San Diego International hasn’t had one. The new one at Lindbergh Field will relieve curb-front traffic congestion by separating arriving and departing passengers.

Glass-laden Sunset Cove is viewed by the airport as just as much a visual addition — both in its own architecture and the view outside that it provides — as a practical one. But the terminal expansion goes beyond that, adding 10 new gates to Terminal 2, to go with the new roadway in front of it, the new security lines, enhanced check-in, additional aircraft parking and taxiway improvements.

Its $1 billion construction has been designed to work with nearby improvements, such as the completion last year of the 21,000-square-foot receiving and distribution center and a future consolidated rental care facility. Teaming up to construct the Green Build have been a couple of joint ventures, those of the Turner Construction, PCL Construction Services Inc. and Flatiron Construction Corp. on the terminal end, and Kiewit Pacific Co. and Sundt Construction Inc. on the dual-level roadway end.

It’s expected to receive a LEED Silver rating from the U.S. Green Building Council, incorporating abundant natural light and various sustainable building practices and facility features.

According to Bryan Enarson, airport authority vice president of development, the Green Build improvements are expected to generate $10 million in direct and indirect economic benefit for San Diego. And when finished, the 460,000-square-foot terminal expansion is expected to help the airport handle a projected doubling of passengers by 2030.

When building consensus that the project would be a benefit to San Diegans, traveler and airport visitor comfort, and convenience were emphasized by the airport. Jones said those benefits will become obvious as soon as visitors arrive.

“They’re going to find that with our new dual-level roadway, we’ve separated arrivals and departures,” Jones said. “Departures go out the upper level, and when they get there, they’ll have check-in pavilions where they can actually check in for their flight, drop off their bags right there before they even get into the terminal."

An expanded ticket lobby is still planned to be finished in May, but Jones said the curbside check-in will be an option that will be immediately recognized as an improvement for the passenger before even entering Sunset Cove.

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