SFO Control Tower sets new industry standards, wins ACEC Grand Conceptor

28 April 2016
Sfo grand conceptor 2


WASHINGTON, D.C. — The American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC) has named the new Air Traffic Control Tower at San Francisco International Airport (SFO) the 2016 Grand Conceptor award-winner, signifying “the year’s most outstanding engineering achievement” in its 49th annual Engineering Excellence Awards on April 19, 2016. More than 500 attended the black-tie Engineering Excellence Awards Gala in Washington, D.C. that recognized 151 preeminent engineering accomplishments from throughout the nation and the world.

Click to view the ACEC 2016 Engineering Excellence Grand Conceptor Award video


Designed by international engineering firm Walter P Moore, the iconic new air traffic control tower serving the nation’s seventh busiest airport features pioneering seismic engineering that provides both toppling resistance and a self-centering capability during an earthquake. The new tower replaces the previous 1960s-era control tower, which was temporarily knocked out of commission during the 6.9 magnitude 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, compromising air safety. It is the first air traffic control tower delivered through a partnership between the airport and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

As structural engineer for the project, Walter P Moore was recognized for establishing several industry milestones with their design. The tower relies on an innovative vertical post-tensioned system to self-right the structure during a major seismic event, ensuring that air traffic controllers remain fully operational throughout a magnitude 7.5 earthquake. This is crucial because the airport is just four miles from the San Andreas Fault.

Walter P Moore combined the seismic system with suspended tuned mass dampers that limit perceived sway accelerations due to high winds common to its bayside location, making the new tower a much more comfortable working environment than its predecessor. It is the first application of tuned mass dampers in a seismically-controlled structure, and is the tallest vertical post-tensioned structure in California.

Construction on the new air traffic control tower was completed in August 2015 and will officially open in October 2016 following FAA commissioning. The distinctive circular offset cab ensures unobstructed views of all four runways and includes the latest technological advancements in air traffic control, increasing safety for the 47 million passengers who travel annually through SFO.

“The SFO ATCT is truly a work of engineering excellence,” boasts Geoffrey Neumayr, Deputy Airport Director of Design and Construction, San Francisco International Airport. “We were very pleased with the skill and ingenuity that Walter P Moore brought to the structure. From the beginning, our goal was to build the best tower ever constructed, and the SFO ATCT delivered.”

In addition to SFO and Walter P Moore, the project team included Fentress Architects, Hensel Phelps (General Contractor), URS Corporation (MEP Engineer), and Schuff Steel Company (Steel Fabricator).

The ACEC Engineering Excellence Awards competition recognizes engineering and land surveying firms for projects that demonstrate an exceptional degree of innovation, complexity, achievement, and value. ACEC selects 24 exceptional projects (16 Honor Awards, 8 Grand Awards). One of the eight Grand Award winners is chosen as the Grand Conceptor, or overall best engineering project, which this year was the SFO Air Traffic Control Tower (ATCT). View the comprehensive list of winners.

About Walter P Moore 
Walter P Moore is an international company of engineers, innovators, and creative people who solve some of the world’s most complex structural and infrastructural challenges. Providing structural, diagnostics, civil, traffic, parking, and transportation engineering services, they design solutions that are cost- and resource-efficient, forward-thinking, and help support and shape communities worldwide. Founded in 1931 and headquartered in Houston, Texas, Walter P Moore‘s 570+ professionals work across 21 U.S. offices and six international locations.

Editor’s Note: There is no period after the ‘P’ in Walter P Moore.

Earlier in 2016...

Walter P Moore was honored with the Golden State Award at the American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC) California Engineering Excellence Awards gala for the structural engineering of the recently completed air traffic control tower at San Francisco International Airport (SFO). The modern new tower uses a cutting-edge vertical post-tensioned system, enabling the tower to self-right and ensuring air traffic controllers remain fully operational after a magnitude 7.5 earthquake.

Each year, ACEC California honors engineering firms throughout California with Engineering Excellence Honor and Merit Awards. Of those recipients, ACEC California selects one firm to receive the Golden State Award. This year, twenty-four California firms representing twenty-seven projects were named EEA Award winners. Honor Award winners are eligible to enter the ACEC National Engineering Excellence Awards competition.

Stay updated on our latest insights, news, events, advancements, and successes we’ve achieved with our clients.