When it comes to a $1 billion improvement project at the San Diego International Airport, greening has double meaning.
On one hand, The Green Build, a program conceived 15 years ago and just now coming to full fruition, has sustainability and environmental sensitivity in mind, including the use of alternative energy sources and incorporation of recycled materials in construction.
“We are going for LEED Silver certification,” said Bryan Enarson, vice president of development for the San Diego Airport Authority, referring to the coveted Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design recognition bestowed by the U.S. Green Building Council.
Then there’s green as in dollars. Robert Silvas, director of small business development for the Airport Authority, said the Green Build project will prove an economic boon to local businesses. Of the $412 million already spent on construction, Silvas said, 86 percent has gone to such local businesses, and 26 percent of the $412 million to small businesses. In addition, the Green Build has provided 1,000 construction-related jobs for workers in the San Diego area, and the expanded concessions core will mean jobs for employees of new dining and shopping establishments.
So what’s in it for travelers to and from the city?
“Everything is designed to give them more choices and to make it easier to travel,” said Enarson, who with Silvas sat down recently to talk about the Green Build -- a massive Terminal 2 expansion funded by airport revenue bonds, user fees, airport cash and grants from the Federal Aviation Administration.
The improvements have been instituted in phases, the most recent being the opening of 12 new security checkpoints. Six of 10 new gates, aimed at easing terminal congestion, will open April 15, and a new ticket counter lobby will be available for travelers in May. The entire Green Build construction will be completed by Aug. 13, with a community open house to be scheduled early that month. The other principal improvements include:
• A dual-level roadway to relieve traffic congestion; arrivals will be on one level, departures on another.
• “Fully functional check-in kiosks,” Enarson said, that will allow passengers to print boarding passes and check bags themselves curbside.
• Additional Terminal 2 parking (800 more spaces).
• A dining and retail core, dubbed Sunset Cove, that in addition to providing travelers with dozens of places to eat and shop in between flights and giving local businesses like Phil’s BBQ and Warwick’s of La Jolla a presence at the airport, is perhaps the Green Build’s signature aesthetic feature. Its bright, contemporary atrium look and display of public art should add personality to the terminal and, Enarson hopes, facilitate a welcoming, “less stressful” feeling for air passengers awaiting their flights.
The Green Build is a design-build project, as opposed to a design/bid/build project, a first for the Airport Authority. The benefit? “You don’t end up designing something that you can’t build,” said Enarson, who pronounced that “We’re on schedule and under budget.”
When San Diego voters in 2006 rejected Proposition A, which would have recommended that MCAS Miramar be considered for the development of a new commercial airport, the message was sent -- like it or not, flight-path denizens -- that the Lindbergh Field facility wasn’t going anywhere.
The Terminal 2 expansion was also dictated by industry analyses showing that by the year 2030, as many as 33 million passengers will travel through San Diego International Airport, up from 17 million in 2011. The existing airport is bordered by the bay on one side and Interstate 5 on another, and let’s face it, neither the freeway nor the bay is going anywhere. While the Green Build is expanding Terminal 2 by 460,000 square feet, the airport as a whole is what it is.
The Airport Authority’s Enarson and Silvas are undaunted.
“We’re taking these 661 acres and making it the best it can be,” Enarson said.
-Coddon is a San Diego-based freelance writer.