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SFO’s New Air Traffic Control Tower Takes Top Engineering Honors

SFO’s New Air Traffic Control Tower Takes Top Engineering Honors

International engineering firm Walter P. Moore’s work on SFO’s new air traffic control tower has won the 2016 Grand Conceptor award from the American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC). The annual award, which started in 1967, honors the year’s “most outstanding engineering achievement.” The firm’s design incorporates structural innovations that make the tower particularly resilient in an earthquake.

The new tower will replace an older building damaged in the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. Walter P. Moore says the tower features a “vertical post-tensioned system to self-right the structure” during earthquakes of up to 7.5 magnitude. The seismic system works in concert with mass dampers that keep sways due to high winds at a minimum. It is the first time both systems exist in one structure. SFO and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) worked in partnership to deliver the project.

The airport’s deputy director of design and construction Geoffrey Neumayr praised the engineering efforts of Walter P. Moore, calling it “a work of engineering excellence.”

Walter P. Moore principal and the director of seismic design Rafael Sabelli stresses the importance of a functioning airport in the aftermath of a large seismic event. "The airport is a major gateway for relief and post-disaster regional service, including technical experts, insurance specialists and others," he tells Bisnow.  

The region could not return to normalcy after a disaster without a fully functional airport, he adds. A working airport is central to San Francisco's recovery efforts as per the Resilient City plan.

SFO is the nation’s seventh-busiest airport and is four miles from the San Andreas Fault. Resilience is becoming a key part of design and sustainability. Other resiliency projects in the city include the under-construction California Pacific Medical Center.  

Related Topics: SFO, Walter P Moore