Monday | 19 December, 2011 | 10:34 am

Steel acres

By Nick Wright

Sacramento International Airport’s new Terminal B is built for longevity, inside and out

December 2011- No matter how chaotic or distressing it is to fly these days, imagine executing a three-year airport terminal and concourse construction amid the swarm of passengers on one end and the ebb and flow of tarmac traffic on the other—all under a veil of TSA security. Completed in October, the sleek, steel splendor of Sacramento International Airport’s new Terminal B suggests the project flew by, turbulence-free. The new terminal replaces an outdated Terminal B built in 1967.

The airport’s addition is more than a modernization. It’s a complete rebuild comprised of a landside passenger terminal, integrated into the existing layout of the airport, and an airside concourse built on what was previously empty tarmac. The airside concourse is covered by about 176,000 square feet—about 4 acres—of InvariMatte stainless steel. The landside sits under 120,000 square feet (2.75 acres). An automated people-mover connects the airside to the landside.


Brent Kelley, principal at Dallas-based architecture firm Corgan Associates, who designed the terminal with Fentress Architects, and design director for the project, says the airport sought a material suited for longevity. “We were certainly looking for something that would hold up, be high quality and wouldn’t tend to show its age over time,” he says. “We came back to stainless steel as an ideal choice to protect the true waterproofing layer while giving a 50-year lifespan to the roof.”

InvariMatte is an ideal choice for two reasons, Kelley says. First, the aesthetic appeal and consistent coloration fit well with the building’s modern design. Second, it’s low-glare “and the minimal reflectivity of the material was ideal for someone standing in the control tower and having to look over the roof,” he says.

Bemo USA, Mesa, Ariz., a custom metal roofing firm, manufactured the InvariMatte after sourcing it from Contrarian Metal Resources, Allison Park, Pa. The coils were 22-gauge 304 stainless steel, formed into 16-inch wide panels with a 2 9/16-inch-high vertical leg and punctuated by three 3/8-inch-high stiffening beads running the panel’s length, according to Bob Strang, regional manager of Bemo USA.

The airside roof was designed to have a subtle curve, which from a birds-eye view looks like the arc of a hangar. “Due to the design consideration of Corgan, the radii of the metal roof was made large enough so as to eliminate the need for on-site stretch curving,” Strang says. This resulted in the panels naturally conforming to the roof’s slight curve. This saved the airport money and spared Lincoln, Calif.-based Kodiak Roofing, which aided in the installation, Bemo USA and the contractor time and extra handling.

Beauty and the beams
The project team selected steel as primary structural material, as opposed to others like concrete, not only because of its fabrication flexibility but also because it contributes to a sense of place, Kelley says. Inside Terminal B, arced, exposed steel beams criss-cross over a central atrium, playing off of the roof’s curvature as well as reflecting the tree-lined streets of the capital.

“We were trying to create a dynamic rhythm of light and shadows very similar to what you’d experience as you’re walking down the streets in Sacramento,” he says. There are about 8,800 tons of varying grades of architecturally exposed structural steel anchoring the concourse and terminal. Herrick Steel, Stockton, Calif., fabricated the project’s structural steel.

Terminal B’s vertical steel columns are structural as well as functional. They’re clad in steel plate on two sides and covered with stainless steel infill panels on the other two sides. The void space behind the panels allowed the main contractors, Turner Construction Co. on the airside and Austin Walsh Joint Venture on the landside, to incorporate roof drains, conduits, and airport paging and speaker systems, Kelley says. “All of those things are buried within those columns, and we termed that as ‘smart columns’ by being able to utilize that space.”

Perhaps the most striking feature is the public art display in Terminal B. A 56-foot long, aluminum-tile rabbit, called Leap, is suspended from the ceiling and appears to leap between floors into a suitcase below. Kelley says it was designed to be made from fiberglass originally, but the artist changed it to aluminum because of fire hazard concerns. Because of the atrium’s height, “we didn’t design the building with sprinklers in the atrium,” Kelley says. The fiberglass would’ve been a fuel source if a fire broke out on the ground floor below.

Also in the food court area of the concourse is a 10-foot-tall chrome-polished steel curved, tuba-like horn with a computer built into it so travelers can go online. Each keystroke translates into an audible musical note.

“One of the questions was, ‘Will someone know what I’m typing?’” Kelley adds. “No, they don’t unless they’re looking over your shoulder.” MM

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