Delle Willett | Art on the Land
For those who travel by air from city to city, state to state, country to country, or continent to continent, the airport is their first impression of the place they are visiting. Its architecture, physical layout, shops, restaurants, cleanliness, and personnel all impact how a traveler feels about the area.
San Diego’s newest Terminal 2 creates a remarkable first impression of San Diego, with its clean, light-filled, contemporary architecture, local shops and restaurants, coastal influence and sustainable practices at every turn.
Started over four years ago, San Diego International Airport’s “Green Build” project was originally designed to achieve Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council, using green design principles on the 460,000-square-foot expansion of Terminal 2 West and the 1.3 million square feet of new aircraft apron and taxiway areas, on a 45-acre area.
But in fact, it achieved LEED Platinum Certification, the highest energy and environmental certification possible, and considered the industry standard in defining and measuring green, sustainable construction.
With this award, San Diego’s airport is the first in the world to get LEED Platinum Certification.
Some of the sustainable elements of the terminal and airside improvements include solar panels; low-flow water fixtures; special power for aircraft; reflective roofs; energy-efficient or natural lighting; naturally ventilated check-in pavilions; the use of low-volatile adhesives, sealants, paints and coatings; and the use of recycled materials and renewable resources, leading to decreased water usage and reduced energy consumption.
Construction material waste from the project, such as concrete, was recycled and reused on site. And building materials are locally manufactured within 500 miles of the project site.
The location of the San Diego International Airport is considered sustainable as well. The close proximity to Downtown San Diego provides access to numerous bus routes and other mass transit for travelers, and it also provides airport staff the opportunity to bike to work.
Patricia Trauth — principal landscape architect from URS Corporation and president of the American Society of Landscape Architects, San Diego chapter — worked with the airport closely over the last four years, and collaborated with Turner/PCL/Flatiron and Kiewit/Sundt, the design/build contractors, as well as with URS engineers, to create sustainable landscape solutions that would provide a contemporary look and blend in with the existing environment.
Water conservation was a prime directive, she said, and Terminal 2 West may boast the largest drip-irrigation system in the county, accounting for significant water savings.
Plant selection was also key and included native and drought-tolerant plants such as succulents, palm trees (favored for their shallow rootball in spaces where 20,000 linear feet of underground utilities were relocated), olives and New Zealand Christmas trees, and shrubs, like Desert Spoon and Foxtail Agave. Informal clusters of drought-tolerant trees and shrubs are also used in planting areas.
The drip irrigation system, which along with the weather-based controllers that self-adjust the amount of time a valve runs, are highly efficient with regard to water use and will result in a considerable cost-savings as well.
Fountains and grass were a no-no.
“Fountains are one of the things — you put them in, they look great for a couple of years — ultimately most of them get turned off because of maintenance headaches,” Trauth said.
Even without fountains, there’s an illusion of running water as it periodically flows through several bioswales — areas where storm-water runoff can drain into attractive, natural drainage corridors.
The use of turf was discontinued because of its high water requirements. Artificial turf was installed in the three pet-relief areas, which have little sprinklers in them to neutralize pet waste.
Permeable paving was installed at key locations in the parking lot to help clean the storm water before it enters the storm drain system. The storm-water runoff from the parking lot and other paved surfaces drains into numerous bioswales located throughout the landscape areas to irrigate plantings.
This water also percolates down and helps to recharge the water table. These low-impact development solutions reduce the need for storm pipe and are very cost-effective.
Trees were also planted in the parking lot between rows, with a curb that is flush with grade. This allows the run-off to drain into these planting pockets, which then filter the water and supplement the irrigation of plants while maximizing the number of parking spaces.
The lighting design is energy efficient as well, with the use of fluorescent LED lights as well as Cosmopolis lighting in the parking lot — the latest technology in metal halide light fixtures.
Utility location was a significant issue from design through construction. In some cases, there were four- and six-inch clearances between different utilities due to site constraints. Utility research was imperative to ensure proper relocation of 20,000 linear feet of utilities. Delicate and artful solutions were used to install the mature plant material adjacent to these underground utilities.
“We also designed a Transit Plaza — a central public space for travelers to meet one another; [it’s] a lively space to hang out and people-watch, as well as an iconic arrival element for the airport,” Trauth said.
The paving at the plaza is hand-seeded with glass beads in a wave pattern reminiscent of the ocean beaches nearby. It also includes pet-relief areas for travelers with pets. These facilities branch off of the wave seat wall and encircle an enclosed area lined with artificial turf and an access gate and include drinking fountains for people and pets.
“This Transit Plaza has been well received. I’ve had complete strangers contact me regarding how much they like the new landscape. That is a ‘first’ for me,” Trauth said.
Currently, Trauth is working on several new projects along Pacific Highway — on the north side of the runway — currently scheduled for completion in 2015.
—Delle Willett cut her teeth traveling as the daughter of a career Navy man. A graduate of USD with a BFA in hand, her career in marketing and public relations has flourished for over 30 years. An active volunteer for various local organizations, she currently works as a freelance publicist and writer when she’s not traveling the world with her husband, a retired airline pilot. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.