Gensler Architects

Gensler is a world-renowned design and architecture firm with offices worldwide. And they earn their way by providing real value to their owners and users. The architecture of Gensler reflects our understanding of how people and organizations use and experience place and space like their designed San Francisco International Airport.

San Francisco International Airport T2

San Francisco International Airport designed by Gensler, is the United States’ first LEED® Gold-certified terminal, supporting SFO’s goals of zero waste, sustainable education, and reduced carbon footprint. It received industry recognition for its advanced carbon reduction efforts, which have resulted in a 39% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from airport-controlled operations since 1990.

The airport possesses an art collection worthy of any museum, it will encourage you to report to the airport before time to enjoy the architecture and design of this marvel. 

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Exterior of building_©Gensler

Materials Used | San Francisco International Airport

A strong connection to the natural light and the time of day helps us establish routines with our bodies that improve our sleeping habits, mental relaxation, and other internal processes that we are unaware of. Therefore, Natural Light Clerestory windows and skylights reduce the use of artificial lighting and promote a more positive environment. Displacement Ventilation passively cools and purifies interior air. Displacement Ventilation passively cools and purifies interior air.

The ecology can benefit greatly when we use the sun as a substitute for conventional energy sources. Solar energy doesn’t release any carbon emissions, in contrast to fossil fuels. This is a crucial element that makes it far more eco-friendly than conventional energy sources. A solar-powered 456 kW photovoltaic array supplies 20% of the airport’s electricity requirements. 

Materials used in the airport are FSC-certified wood, low-emitting materials, and surfaces with high recycled content.  

Design Philosophy

Airports contribute largely to carbon emission, and air pollution which results in lowering the air quality in the environment. Several airborne chemicals emitted during airport operations may significantly worsen air quality and increase exposure levels for both airport workers and the general population living near airports. 

But, industrialization and urbanization have taken a toll on us and affected our lives largely. It is vital to use such technologies to commute and expand our horizons. This kind of enhancement in technology comes with its own cost.

The airport employs a variety of expressive architectural elements to showcase views of the advancement in technology, skylines, and how man has grown sustainably. While creating a fresh, modern, and efficient traveler experience. These uninterrupted terminal views provide passengers with a sense of control over their surroundings and help to reduce travel-related stress.

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Space overlooking the Airbase_©Copyright Joe Fletcher

Designers at Gensler Architects used various techniques to shape and manage lights to produce spaces with varying personalities throughout the day, the year, and different seasons. Through architectural principles that lessen traveler stress, showcase the airport’s art exhibits, and support progressive environmental initiatives, the terminal intends to improve the passenger experience of flying.

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Art features in the airport_©Gensler

Planning & Design

Highlighting service, hospitality, and comfort, its design gives travelers a variety of choices. Passengers may now take in the wonderful artwork, repose in private dressing rooms, practise yoga, and let their kids play interactively as they relax. In addition to having lots of natural light, sustainable features include photovoltaic energy, which produces renewable energy on-site, displacement ventilation, which enhances air quality while using 20% less energy than standard HVAC systems, recycling, and waste management for construction and demolition, and sustainable building materials like a carpet with recycled content and wood that has received Forest Stewardship Council certification.

“This project reflects Gensler’s airport design strategy. We look to give people an experience that feels like they’re guests at a hotel – a great experience as they travel to and from the Bay Area,” Gensler Principal Peter Weingarten said.

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Design of the airport_©Gensler

Zero Waste Airport | San Francisco International Airport

To reach zero waste and move toward becoming a closed-loop circular campus, SFO’s Zero Waste Plan identifies several steps that must be taken. These steps include managing material inputs to maximize recycling and recovery and reduce waste materials generated on-site.

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Internal airport recycling, composting, and landfill bins include images to improve sorting_©United States Environmental Protection Agency

To ensure zero waste, these are the following ways the airport takes care of the initiative. As per, the United States Environmental Protection Agency:

  • All terminal trios (compost, recycle, landfill bins) are streamlined with color-coded liners to help custodial teams easily identify and place them in the proper exterior bins.(UCOP Building Waste Reduction Program)
  • Paper towels in terminal restrooms are composted to increase diversion. (UCOP Building Waste Reduction Program)
  • Zero Waste Concessions Program eliminates single-use plastic foodware and beverage containers. Liquid disposal bins are installed at every security checkpoint to reduce liquids in recycling bins and increase recycling. (UCOP Building Waste Reduction Program)


While most airports aim to make aviation and air transport a great opportunity to just mend money. San Francisco International Airport aims to achieve zero: zero emissions, zero waste, and zero net energy. It is not only the need of the hour but also the way we should aim to use our resources. San Francisco International Airport is a great example of one-of-a-kind aesthetics with a sustainable approach.

Design of the airport_©Gensler
  1. San Francisco International Airport, Terminal 2. [online] Available at:
  2. Gb&d. Case Study: SFO Terminal 2. [online] Available at:
  3. Youtube. Gensler Design – A Day in the Life of T2. 2011. [online] Available at:
  4. Building Services and Construction. First look: Gensler ups the ante on airport design with new SFO boarding area. [online] Available at:
  5. Architizer. San Francisco International Airport Terminal 2. [online] Available at:
  6. EPA. Zero Waste Case Study: San Francisco International Airport (SFO). [online] Available at:

Reetika is an aspiring architect who is inquisitive about stories behind all works of art. She enjoys telling those stories and adding her own spin to them. She strives to write and communicate herself in a way that is informative, simple to read and comprehend for anyone and everyone.