San Francisco, CA 94128
Year Constructed
Structural Engineering Firm(s)
Structural Engineer(s)
  • Rafael Sabelli
Fentress Architects
Main Contractor
Hensel Phelps
SFO Air Traffic Control Tower
SFO Air Traffic Control Tower
Source: Walter P. Moore
Significance to Structural Engineering History in Northern California

The building is an iconic structure for all passengers using San Francisco International Airport. This pioneering work in tall, self-centering structural systems has pushed the envelope of structural engineering in Northern California, and is a prominent success in structural engineering achievement.

Structure Description

The structural system of the tower is a vertically post-tensioned, cast-in-place cylindrical concrete core. The flared upper structure and control cab is steel framed, cantilevering up and out from the core. The base building has concrete walls and steel gravity framing. The vertically post-tensioned, back-stayed structure tower provides an economical solution to limit deformation and provide operational seismic performance. The design demonstrates the feasibility of constructing damage-resistant, self-centering structural systems economically and efficiently.

A performance-based methodology was adopted for design, as the tower height exceeds the code-prescribed height limits for concrete shear wall buildings located in active seismic regions. Located 2.5 miles from the San Andreas Fault, the control tower is designed to withstand the Maximum Considered Earthquake level for life safety and to remain operational for the Design Earthquake level. A suite of hazard-specific ground motions were selected and scaled to account for numerous factors, including soil nonlinearity and pile effects on soil response. A tuned-mass damping system was adopted to mitigate accelerations due to wind.

  • ACEC National Engineering Excellence: Grand Conceptor Award (2016)
  • ACEC National Engineering Excellence: Grand Award (2016)
  • ACEC California Engineering Excellence: Golden State Award (2016)
  • ACEC California Engineering Excellence: Honor Award - Structural Systems (2016)
  • SEAONC Excellence in Engineering: Award of Excellence - Landmark Structures (2016)
  • NCSEA Excellence in Structural Engineering Outstanding Project Award (2016)
  • International Partnered Project of the Year: Ruby Award (2016)