Air Traffic Control Tower Replacement at SFO

San Francisco, California, USA

This 220-foot tall control tower is located between Terminals 1 and 2.

Known colloquially as the “Gateway to the Pacific,” SFO is a world-class airport that serves approximately 41 million passengers annually.

While this new control tower is a signature design element for the airport, the architectural vocabulary also borrows from the existing airport complex.  For example, the twisting façade shares color, massing, and materials with the neighboring passenger terminal.  Likewise, the cab—or portion of the tower in which air traffic controllers operate—features clear, laminated, and seamless glass to both maximize controllers’ views.

In addition to the control tower, the project also includes an office facility at the tower’s base. Fentress’ design for this “integrated facility” presents a radical alternative to historic precedent.  In contrast to compartmentalization, the FAA’s new open office environment encourages interaction and collaboration.  Similarly, a courtyard and green roof provide much needed open space for staff to rest between shifts.  After all, air traffic control is among the the world’s most stressful occupations.

Two connector corridors—one post-security, the other pre-security—are also a part of the project, and connect passenger-accessible parts of the concourse.

Resilient Design

The control tower incorporates a post-tension system that will not sway with wind loads.  Furthermore, it is also designed to withstand seismic events of magnitude 8.0.

Award-Winning Design

  • Alliant Build America Award, in the Building Over $100M New category 2017
  • Metal Construction Association (MCA) – 2016 MCA Chairman’s Award for Municipal
  • ACEC California – Excellence in Engineering Awards – Golden State Award 2016
  • ACEC National Grand Conceptor Award 2016
  • IPI Partnered Project of the Year Award, Sapphire Level 2016
  • DBIA Regional Distinction Award 2016
  • DBIA Regional Design Excellence Award 2016
  • ENR 2016 Best Northern California Project – Aviation/Transportation Division
  • 2016 Winner – AGC California: Meeting the Challenge of a Difficult Project Category
  • NECA Project Excellence Award 2016
  • Airports Going Green Award – Honorable Mention 2015
  • Voted to represent AJW-2 products and services for 2015 by the FAA


This is the first FAA Control Tower delivered using design-build.

USGBC LEED Gold-Certified

Sustainable design strategies include:

  • Solar panels installed on a nearby building roof
  • Natural daylight in offices and the public lobby
  • High performance building envelope
  • Water-saving, low-flow plumbing fixtures
  • Roof patio with drought-tolerant plants and reflective roofing to reduce heat gain from the roof
  • Recycled building materials
  • Electrical vehicle charging station
  • Energy efficient mechanical and electrical equipment