Case Studies

Real stories from real BIM people

The San Francisco International Airport Terminal 1 - Boarding Area B


Published by:
Company: HKS
Location: San Francisco, United States
Year of the project: 2016
Published: 14/08/2018
The so-called ‘Big Room’ is located in a 1960-era hangar at San Francisco International Airport (SFO). It is a 36,000-square foot workspace with a capacity for 200 architects, contractors, and engineers working in the remodeling of the Terminal 1 Boarding Area B project. A building-within-a-building that has become “one of the most exciting yet challenging” methods the HKS firm has found to promote both collaboration and coordination.  

The airport spends in a space to gather both the design team and owner-representatives all in one place. That allowed the team to communicate with each other and solve every problem that came up. 

The work is going beyond the borders of this $2,4 billion project. Constructed in 1963, the first Terminal 1 will be destroyed and the new Terminal 1 Center and Boarding Area B will be assembled by two design-build teams. Led by the construction contractor Austin Webcor Joint Venture, the team will be responsible for planning the 550K square foot boarding area, 27 gates, concessions, and amenities and accommodating an innovative new baggage handling systems for this future world-class passenger experience. 

The aim of the Big Room workers is to transform the experience of the SFO guests. The design team has selected talent across multiple disciplines and geographic regions (New York, Melbourne, New Delhi and Dubai), taking advantage of design intelligence tools and technologies like BIM 360, a cloud platform to project delivery and construction management. 

The project team has created a Virtual Big Room, additional cloud space so all the right talent from the partner firms can work collaboratively. This virtual collaboration is being used to clear up conflicts between SFO’s vision, priorities and project pressures. 

Keeping the Airport Operations running

From the beginning, keeping the Airport Operations running was the main goal. The estimated time to complete the project was six years. Starting with groundbreaking in 2016, the schedule for nine gates was to open by July 2019, nine more gates by March 2020 and seven gates in the first quarter of 2021. Boarding Area B will be fully operational by the end of 2022, with capacity for more international flights by using seven of the 27 gates as multifunction swing gates connected to US Customs. 

Part of the original terminal was improved to work as an interim boarding area for passengers while the new structure was under construction. However, fit all the construction activities in the nearby location was still a challenge because the team wanted to use every last square foot of the space available. All the steps of the operation had to be coordinated with both the contractor and operations. 

Up to date, SFO has held nearly 60% of the terminal's capacity along the construction. Parts of the pathway are being built to keep the terminal open during the works. Worried about the possible confusion of the passengers, the SFO is taking into consideration to cover temporary walls, AirTrain platforms, and other corridors with arts and information about the upcoming Terminal 1 project. 

The best solutions

The Virtual Big Room is the place where all the conflicts of design ambitions, budget limitations and what can actually be built while the Terminal 1 is working, are being solved. The design team schedules weekly BIM meetings to exchange files and information, deal with major problems, identify preferences and coordinate solutions to be added to the critical task timeline. The contractor’s 4D model projects construction sequencing and scheduling.

The continuous exchanges have opened a dialog about design options like the building envelope, for example. The main focus was to incorporate natural daylighting while decreasing glare and heat transmittance. The solution was dynamic glazing that modifies window coloring in response to sunlight, turning the interior space more pleased for passengers along the day while keeping the views of the San Francisco Bay intact. This solution also contributes to SFO’s goal to achieve Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold standards. 

The new Terminal will include a new solution that will be beneficial for both SFO baggage services and passengers that are tired to get their luggage lost. We’re talking about the Individual Carrier System (ICS), the first of its king the States, will improve the baggage handling and security. This means that will be more space available for the RFID-trackable baggage containers and conveyance system. This system is also more energy efficient than traditional baggage conveyors. 

Type of Work
  • Civil work
How was the BIM Experience in the project?
Reality Simulation: Does it help to get an idea of the final product?
Waste reduction, labor costs and deviations
Greater control of the construction process
Improves collaboration between agents
Conflict resolution and clash detection
Correction and error handling
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