Oakland Int’l Invests in Seismic Retrofit for Terminal 1

Oakland Int’l Invests in Seismic Retrofit for Terminal 1
Jodi Richards
Published in: 

Passenger traffic has been on a steady rise at Oakland International (OAK) over the last five years, and airport officials are working to make sure the facilities can meet current and future demand. Recent projects have targeted structural integrity and the customer experience as top priorities. 

In mid-December, Director of Aviation Bryant Francis expected the California airport to finish 2018 with about 13.8 million passengers. While still under its 2007 record of 14.6 million, OAK will likely surpass 14 million in 2019, he adds.

As part of the airport’s Moving Modern program, Terminal 1 received much-needed seismic retrofit improvements and updates to the TSA security screenings lobby. The project also modernized the adjacent administrative offices and access to the recently expanded International Arrivals Building. When planning and executing the program, the Port Authority and its partners focused on improving the passenger experience, extending the useful life of the building and increasing safety for passengers and airport staff while minimizing disruption to critical airport operations. 


Project: Seismic Retrofit/Terminal Renovations

Location: Oakland (CA) Int’l Airport

Terminal: 1– Building M102

Approx Cost: $100 million

Funding: Passenger facility charges

Construction Began: Mid-2014

Substantial Completion: Oct. 2017

Structural Engineer: Rutherford + Chekene

Architect: MWA Architects

Associate Architect: YHLA Architects

Owner’s Construction Rep: Consolidated CM

General Contractor: Turner Construction

Steel Fabricator: Olson Steel

Casting Production Team: Cast Connex/Bradken

Moving Services: Visions Management

Accolade: Seismic retrofit project received the Excellence in Structural Engineering Award from Structural Engineers Association of Northern California—Award of Merit, Retrofit/Alteration

Updating the Existing Terminal

Terminal 1 is home to ticketing and baggage claim operations for 10 airlines as well as 16 boarding gates and U.S. Customs and Immigration facilities for international flights. 

Joan Zatopek, OAK’s aviation and planning development manager, explains that the Port of Oakland took stock of all airport facilities in the mid-2000s and determined that Terminal 1, the oldest operating terminal, required infrastructure investment. Having wrapped up a major expansion and renovation of Terminal 2 in 2007, it was time to put the focus on Terminal 1, notes Zatopek. 

The entire Terminal 1 campus was identified as needing renovation. Because Terminal 1 is comprised of three ’60s-era concrete structures, it needed significant structural upgrades to meet current seismic standards. Unfortunately, 2008 was not a good year for air travel. Like many other airports, OAK saw a steep decline in passenger numbers. “The economy went south, we lost some airlines and 30 percent of our traffic from our peak in 2007,” relates Zatopek. A 2007 planning study had examined the facility to determine what aspects needed renovation or replacement, and the Port came up with a package of improvements, prioritized based on need. The economic decline prompted the Port to narrow its list of terminal improvements to those of the highest priority. 

“We had to really pick and choose what we could spend our monies on,” recalls Zatopek. “Through engineering analysis and focusing on life-safety, we selected the (lobby retrofit) project because of the seismic vulnerabilities.”

Built in 1962, Terminal 1 has “good bones” but was lacking from a life-safety perspective, she explains. The biggest objectives were meeting current seismic standards and fire alarm/fire suppression code requirements. Port officials explored the option of constructing a new facility but chose to renovate in-place for economic reasons, despite the complexity it would add to the project. In-place replacement, versus a retrofit/renovation, wasn’t a viable option because—at the time—OAK did not have “swing space” or “empty chairs” to move passengers and airlines around during construction. 

“It wasn’t feasible,” explains Jon Cimperman, project manager with the Port. “We were using the whole building at the time.” 

The central utility plant was also identified as “highest risk” and scheduled for replacement. A new central plant building with advanced energy equipment and management systems to maximize performance and efficiency are now in place.  

Seismic Standards

The Port developed a goal for the seismic retrofit around a life-safety performance criterion of collapse prevention. Marko Schotanus, senior associate with structural engineering firm Rutherford + Chekene, and his team evaluated the building to the airport’s standard, designed a structural solution and developed construction documents for the renovation of the central lobby building. 

To develop a solution that would meet OAK’s needs, the design team built a detailed computer model that simulated all the loads that the building can experience over its life, and then analyzed the structural components to ensure that they would be able to resist those loads. 

Crews installed vertical seismic force-resisting elements at the perimeter. These new elements include special reinforced concrete shear walls at the crawlspace and first story, and buckling-restrained braced frames at the second story. Columns and local areas of the existing concrete floor slab were improved using fiber reinforced polymer. A new structural diaphragm was created at the roof level with the addition of a horizontal truss system comprised of hollow structural sections connected at column locations using a cast steel column collar. 

Each cast collar is made of two prefabricated identical halves that are bolted around each of the 48 columns. For installation, crews used a custom chain hoist to pick up the roughly 3-ton collars at four points and lift the column, explains Jamison Curry, associate principal at Rutherford + Chekene. The collars were then bolted to the existing roof ribs and grouted into place and bracing was assembled. 

Rather than retrofit the entire facility at once, crews worked on one side of the building at a time. Steve Stretchberry, airport planning consultant and airports client manager for Rutherford + Chekene, notes that the phasing schedule extended the construction timeline, but it ensured safe and efficient operations in Terminal 1 throughout the project—a primary goal of the Port. 

With structural upgrades focused on the outside of the building, there was very little encroachment on the footprint and interior operations, adds Schotanus. 

Prefabricating the collars also helped maintain operations inside the terminal by allowing for easier installation with minimal noise and fumes from welding. “If it was built in place, rather than prefabricated, it would have been a significant impact to operations,” Stretchberry explains. 

The 1960s design of the original roof allowed rainwater to pool, so designers created a flat roof with a global drainage plane to improve the roof’s reliability and simplify maintenance. The replacement roof also helps to support the collars.

Dancing Construction

One of the more challenging aspects of the program was the construction that needed to occur on top of the TSA security checkpoint. “That was a feat,” emphasizes Zatopek. 

The security checkpoint has an open mezzanine above it, and part of the structural retrofit required the placement of the extensive lattice of structural steel—about 1 million pounds throughout the building—directly over the operating checkpoint. To accommodate the work, crews erected a temporary platform on top of the security checkpoint. Known as the “dance floor,” the platform allowed the project team to “dance” construction overhead, without impacting operations below. 

The construction team also employed inventive solutions below the dance floor to minimize operational disruptions. In addition to erecting temporary barriers to separate passengers from the construction, workers performed louder tasks such as welding in small pods that acted like soundproof booths. “There was a lot of creativity, thought and coordinated elements,” observes Cimperman.

A deliberate and methodical phasing sequence of construction allowed the terminal to remain open and operational, but also did not weaken the building before the team could reach its ultimate goal of strengthening it, he adds. 

Dismantling the Tower

An eight-story tower with an air traffic control tower cab at the top previously sat in the middle of the two-story Terminal 1. Each floor had roughly 1,000 square feet, but by the time cross bracing and other seismic enhancements would have been added to bring it up to current standards, the square footage would have been diminished greatly. Upgrading the tower, which was neither ADA-compliant nor up to current seismic safety standards, just didn’t make sense, Zatopek relates. 

“Aesthetically, it was innovative in the ’60s,” Cimperman comments, but it was not adequately designed to withstand large earthquakes. 

A new FAA control tower, capable of handling both the south and north fields, opened in 2013, eliminating the need for the tower on top of Terminal 1.

Extracting the eight-story tower from the core of the terminal was a monumental challenge, Cimperman notes. The concrete structure was removed in a slow, deliberate, safe and controlled manner, he explains. “This wasn’t a wrecking ball or TNT. It came down in buckets to keep the building safe and make sure that we didn’t have too much disruption from noise and vibration.” 

Added Benefits

Upgrading the infrastructure of Terminal 1 was another important aspect of the project. As with most facilities of its age, the building needed improved efficiencies in facility maintenance and the power distribution, lighting and heating/venting/air conditioning systems, supported by the central utility plant, says Zatopek

The recent retrofit project, which included the airport’s administrative offices, also allows OAK to accommodate more of its aviation department staff under one roof on the second floor of Terminal 1. Previously, staff was in four different locations, including the Port of Oakland headquarters and the airport’s north field. “It’s made for a much more efficient and effective operation for us overall,” Francis notes.

A window wall system increases natural light throughout the space, while upgraded restrooms, new elevators, signage enhancements and a full redesign of the second-floor administration offices and public meeting space add to the aesthetic and functional enhancements.

During renovations, the airport added a temporary modular structure adjacent to the north side of the terminal to house the administrative departments that had been located on the second floor of the building. The airport hired a professional move management company to orchestrate the transition from the terminal into the trailer and back again to ensure that personnel could remain up and running without interruption.


“I don’t think anyone could overestimate how difficult doing a retrofit on this building would be,” Zatopek reflects.

Given the length and complexity of the project, Cimperman says that partnership with all stakeholders was vital. “Teamwork, collaboration, being accountable when things didn’t go right and being accommodating for things that needed to occur—that created a trust.”

Airport officials worked with TSA to establish the maximum number of lanes that could be out of service at any given time. Of the six lanes, at least four needed to be operational during certain hours to accommodate the terminal’s busy schedule. 

“Traffic patterns changed, and we had some of the ‘peak of peaks’ during the tail end of construction,” Zatopek recalls. 

Careful phasing was aided by the delivery method employed, construction manager at risk, Schotanus adds. With the contractor involved from the design phase, the team was able to explore different solutions without getting too far into one that could have negatively affected operations. “Having that seat at the table and that interaction helped the collaboration,” he explains.

Schotanus says OAK’s project demonstrates that it is possible to successfully retrofit existing terminals—even buildings that are 50 years old. “It’s important to understand that there are significant challenges that come with it,” he advises. “But if you plan ahead and have a collaborative environment, it can all work out well.”

Incorporating Sustainability

Sustainability was a guiding principle on all aspects of the terminal retrofit, notes Zatopek. An energy management system, lighting controls, LED lighting, heating/venting/air conditioning upgrades, use of sustainable materials and energy-efficient water fixtures all help to control lifecycle costs. 

The central utility plant project was designed and constructed using the principles and standards of the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) system, and the Terminal 1 Renovation Project followed LEED standards. The project team has applied for LEED certification of the reconstructed second floor mezzanine under the commercial interiors performance category. Officials project that the entire program will extend the life of Terminal 1 by 30 years.

In addition to the sustainability efforts and seismic enhancements, aesthetic upgrades are bringing Terminal 1 into the 21st century, says Stretchberry.

“It’s a step in the right direction in terms of putting more and more of a focus on the customer experience,” agrees Francis. The next step will be continued renovations to restrooms and an entirely new concessions program.


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.



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