SFO Opens T2 With Richard Branson’s Bravado
The private opening of San Francisco International Airport’s newest terminal, T2, took place last week with true Sir Richard Branson fanfare. T2, the new home of Virgin America and American Airlines, is a showplace of sleek, modern design and comfort. If taking a Virgin America flight is like flying in a high-tech nightclub, then visiting T2 is like hanging out in a five-star resort.
With the new T2, the San Francisco Airport, Turner Construction, and Gensler have reinvented the airport user experience, and it is truly impressive. T2 offers stress-free and calming spaces, innovative amenities, and the best in organic, local dining in keeping with Northern California’s impeccable cuisine standards. And, of course, there is preferential parking for hybrid cars.
The developers of T2 hope it will be the first gold-certified airport terminal in the U.S. LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is a green-building certification system that rates projects’ sustainability. American Airlines hopes that its Admirals Club will achieve LEED silver certification. The LEED system has four rating levels – certified, silver, gold, and platinum.
“San Francisco is a global leader in green building, so it’s fitting that the San Francisco International Airport has the first LEED gold terminal in the nation,” said Jared Blumenfeld, Regional Administrator for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in the Pacific Southwest. “The EPA applauds the design features that not only minimize its environmental footprint, but are healthier for travelers. This outstanding terminal deserves to be a model for airports around the world.”
Developers went to extraordinary lengths to pursue their goal of achieving LEED gold certification when transforming the old Terminal 2 into the new T2. Contractors recycled 90 percent of the construction debris from the original Terminal 2. Design elements include vast utilization of natural light, modern ventilation systems that require 20 percent less energy, and skylights and clerestories – roofline windows –which bring daylight into the ticketing lobby and retail areas and significantly reduce electricity usage during the day. Gone are the days of low ceilings and long airport corridors. Could air travel be enjoyable again? If it’s up to the design and management team at T2, the answer is a resounding “Absolutely!”
The landing of Virgin Galactic’s White Knight Two, the largest carbon-composite aviation vehicle ever built, was the pièce de résistance of the morning’s celebrations. It was followed by a commercial flight carrying Branson, legendary astronaut Buzz Aldrin, and schoolchildren who benefit from Branson’s Virgin Unite non-profit. Guests were invited to take a flight, enjoy lunch with Branson, and then attend a black-tie gala with him for $10,000 each. All of the funds raised from ticket sales benefitted Virgin Unite’s educational initiatives, aimed at inspiring and supporting students to discover innovative solutions to global challenges by advancing education in science, technology, engineering, math, and business entrepreneurship.
SFO’s T2 is the first airport dining program in the nation to offer Slow Food cuisine. T2 features organic venues, and all of the restaurants use only compostable utensils and containers. Restaurants include: Andale, Cat Cora, Lark Creek Grill, Napa Farms and Vino Volo, Peet’s Coffee and Tea, The Plant Café Organic, and Pinkberry. The focus at all dining venues is on locally produced food in season. Sorry, you won’t find a McDonald’s in this chic terminal.
More akin to a street in SOHO than an airport, the shopping in T2 is a mix of European flair and pampering products. Spain’s MANGO has a stylish retail presence, as does Kiehl’s Skincare. Others who call T2 home include: Compass Books, Greetings From San Francisco, Mosaic Fine Art and Craft Gallery, and XpressSpa.