Landside Terminal Focuses on the Customer

Kimberly Kaiser
Published in: 

When Sacramento International Airport (SMF) built the new four-story, 424,000-square-foot landside portion of its new Terminal B, "passenger experience" was a top design criterion. The result, say team and airport officials, is an airy building with clean lines that is easy for visitors to navigate.


Project: Landside Terminal

Location: Terminal B, Sacramento Int'l Airport

Size: 424,000 sq. ft.

Design Team: Corgan Associates, in association with Fentress Architects

Construction Contractor: Austin Commercial and Walsh Construction Joint Venture

Environmental Assessment: URS Corp.

Natural Resource Consultant: ESA

Concessions: HMSHost; SSP; The Paradies Shops; Pacific Gateway Concessions

Baggage System: Schneider Electric; Vanderlande

Counters: Fish Construction

Signage: GNU Group

Advertising: Clear Channel Airports

Crowd Control: Visiontron Corp.

The layout, as conceived by Corgan Associates in association with Fentress Architects, consolidates all of the airport's landside functions (ticketing, baggage claim, baggage make-up, etc.) into one building and stratifies them onto different levels. Baggage screening and outbound management occur in the basement, out of passengers' view. The ground level houses baggage claim, and ticketing is one floor up. Designers refer to the third floor as the "transfer level," because that's where passengers access the new automated people mover. The fourth floor contains airport administration offices, another area not generally accessed by the public.

Throughout the building, designers worked to create open spaces to give the terminal a look that's distinct to Sacramento. "It creates a real feeling of an indoor-outdoor kind of a building," describes Curt Fentress, lead designer of Fentress Architects. "It feels light and airy, so you are part of the landscape."

The airport took a design-build approach to the project, so construction began before the design was complete. "We were brought in early to be in a design-assist role and help the client and architect from a logistics and constructability perspective," explains John Maranowicz, senior project manager with the joint venture between Austin Commercial and Walsh Construction that managed construction. With the design just 30% complete, Austin-Walsh was able to start awarding contracts for certain construction elements with especially long lead times.

The airport, program management team, architects and contractors devoted a lot of time and effort to team building, reports Leonard Takayama, SMF's deputy director of special projects. The process helped get beyond the egos and chest thumping to define what was needed to make the project successful, he notes.

Since most of the senior personnel involved in the project had experience working on other major airport terminal initiatives, there was a sense of trust and confidence going into the project, adds Takayama.


Making the landside facility user-friendly and intuitive were key objectives. "We tried to make sure we had as many of the spaces as wide open and visible as possible," relates Brent Kelley, principal of Corgan Associates.

The first level of the three-story public portion covers the full footprint of the building. On the second floor, openings in the floor of the circulation zone allow visitors to see through to level one and vice versa. The third level, which includes the automated people platform, is a partial floor that overlooks the second floor.

"We made it very visible, very open," explains Kelley, noting that passengers standing on the third floor can see almost everything going on in the public areas below.

Clear, simple circulation that makes it easy and appealing for passengers to maneuver through the building was paramount, Fentress adds. "The interior of the building is really all about the passengers' experience," he notes.

Exterior design elements include a two-sided curb - with 300 feet on the west side and 300 feet on the east side. Passengers drive up to the terminal on the west side of the building, with traffic moving clockwise.

"We basically created the building with an east hall and a west hall," explains Kelley. "In trying to make it as intuitive as possible, we've got everyone processing from the east or west curb, continuing through ticketing and then moving to the middle of the building, where we've created what we call our streetscape or circulation zone."

Ticketing & Baggage

The new terminal utilizes island-style ticket counters rather than more traditional linear counters with a wall behind them. The new configuration makes it easier for passengers because they can see through from island to island and decide which has the shortest line, explains Takayama.

Designers point to the ticket counters as a prime example of how the clear and airy design helps makes it easy for passengers to navigate through the terminal.

Without the usual visual barriers associated with ticketing counters, passengers know exactly where to go after they've checked their bags, Takayama adds.

According to Kelley, the airline baggage make-up area required a lot of study. "We tried to do it at grade, but the real estate was just so limited that we weren't able to accomplish all the functional things that needed to happen," he chronicles. "The final solution was to create a basement level under the terminal, and that's where all the tugs drive and the bags ultimately end up going. The airlines put the bags on the tugs and then take them over to the aircraft."

In comparison, the old terminal's outbound baggage system was much simpler, notes Takayama. Bags traveled on a takeaway belt from behind the ticket counters through a hole in the wall, where airline baggage handlers picked them up.

Because of the new terminal's vertical configuration - ticketing on level 2, bag claim on the ground floor and the outbound bag room in the basement - the new baggage handling system is more complex. In addition, all bags go through a common TSA screening matrix, unlike the old terminal where each airline bag room had its own explosive detection device.

"Each airline will have its own pier," Takayama notes, "but all of the airline tenants will share that space in the basement."

Tugs take the baggage from the basement to the aircraft through a tunnel connecting the basement to the aircraft apron.

"The airlines themselves asked us not to design a baggage handling system where the bags would be delivered to the gates," relates Takayama. "They were concerned with lift and the complexity to deliver bags to the gates; there would be too many opportunities for system failure. Like it or not, they were going to have baggage handlers. So they're just making use of the human resources instead of depending on mechanical systems."

The outbound baggage handling system, by Vanderlande, includes two EDS matrices and is fed by eight ticket counters and two curbside stands.

Schneider Electric provided the electrical equipment that makes the baggage system run - everything from the controls and drives to the motors and conveyors, explains Brad

Roseberry, Schneider's national account manager, airport infrastructure. The system also uses Schneider Electric software for bag routing.

According to Fred Marten, controls technology manager for Vanderlande, the Terminal B system is the first total IP-based network - a "very up-to-date system" based on an Ethernet network and implemented on a standby configuration. "Essentially, none of the processors could fail and take the system down without it having an immediate backup," Marten explains. "We worked closely with Schneider's R&D engineering group to develop that system architecture."

Schneider Electric implemented an open protocol Ethernet control system with lower level devicenet field control - a unique element because it is the first large-scale open protocol system, notes Roseberry.

An open protocol, he explains, made installation faster, easier and less expensive: "There's two miles of conveyors. The less time they spend installing, the less the project costs."

In addition to bringing the airport up to current TSA regulations, the new system also limits its exposure from lost and damaged bags, adds Roseberry.

Green Design

When the Terminal B opened in early October, SMF was awaiting word about whether it had achieved the Leadership in Energy Efficient Design (LEED) Silver certification Corgan and Fentress designers had worked toward. In addition to traditional measures to reduce energy consumption and water use, the airport was able to convert about nine acres of surface parking into a park area in front of the landside terminal. "It creates quite a dramatic view as you approach the building," comments Kelley, noting that a new parking lot was added elsewhere.

Specifications for materials stressed recycled content and reduced off gassing, while the design of mechanical systems emphasized energy efficiency and reduced water consumption, adds Fentress. The majority of the flooring in public areas, for instance, is terrazzo made with recycled glass, marble and shell.

On the material recycling front, concrete that was demolished during the airside repaving was crushed onsite and mixed back in as part of the aggregate for the new pavement. In a uniquely Sacramento effort, wood from a demolished local bridge built in the 1920s or 1930s was incorporated into the new terminal. "We actually took about 67,000 board feet of the redwood, re-milled it and turned it into part of the ceiling," explains Kelley. "So we were able to not only salvage a piece of history, but also keep a lot of good, old growth redwood from ending up in the dump as well."

Before any construction work began, however, URS Corp. and the airport conducted an environmental assessment. Key issues highlighted were air quality, endangered wildlife, traffic and flood plains, notes Bill Fehring, Ph.D., a senior project manager at URS.

ESA, the natural resource consultant for Sacramento County Airport System, coordinated environmental planning and permitting efforts with more than nine local and federal agencies and provided on-call expertise related to habitat management, air quality monitoring, dewatering permits and preconstruction surveys.

Keys to Success

"There was a very strong emphasis put on maintaining customer service and keeping it easy for passengers to use this airport while we were constructing right in the middle of the airport," recalls Kelley. Specific efforts were made to ensure that roadways were open, parking close to the terminal remained available and routes for construction vehicles mixed as little as possible with public traffic.

Austin-Walsh used night and graveyard shifts to keep travelers safe and make sure construction didn't impede their perception or ability to access the airport. "They still need to get to their flights; they still need to get through the things they do every day," notes Maranowicz.

He credits early contractor involvement, a particularly strong local subcontractor network and very good collaboration among major stakeholders for helping the project run smoothly. "The airport, architect and program manager were all on site, so decisions were made every day here at the airport," he explains. "You can't put a price tag on that."

Collaboration and open communication played a huge role in getting the project completed under budget and ahead of schedule, agrees Fentress. "I think everybody just rolled up their sleeves and worked as a team," he says, noting that both architects "put our egos aside to accomplish this project for the city."

With the new terminal complete, Fentress predicts good things for SMF. "I think the airport's going to be a real economic engine for this community and the region because of the ease of transportation," he explains. "It's going to cause more people to flow through that airport, and it's going to be better for the businesses in Sacramento."

Landside Development

2022 Charlotte Douglas International Airport Report of Achievement

Giving back to the community is central to what Charlotte Douglas International Airport and its operator, the City of Charlotte Aviation Department, is about, and last year was no different. 

Throughout 2022, while recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic, we continued our efforts to have a positive impact on the Charlotte community. Of particular note, we spent the year sharing stories of how Connections Don't Just Happen at the Terminal - from creating homeownership and employment opportunities to supporting economic growth through small-business development and offering outreach programs to help residents understand the Airport better.

This whitepaper highlights the construction projects, initiatives, programs and events that validate Charlotte Douglas as a premier airport.

Download the whitepaper: 2022 Charlotte Douglas International Airport Report of Achievement.



Featured Video

Featured Video

# # #

# # #