Owing to its proximity to Silicon Valley – an area where residents produce more U.S. patents than any other in the United States – passengers coming through Mineta San José International (SJC) tend to expect a level of technological excellence that exceeds what they might hope for elsewhere.
That was a key consideration driving the design/build at SJC, a four-year project encompassing nearly one million square feet of building space. “We are Silicon Valley’s airport,” says David Vossbrink, Communications Director for the airport. “We’re a stone’s throw away from Google, Intel, Apple, Hewlett Packard, Adobe and Ebay. We have a very savvy and demanding business and general traveler here.” In order to continue accommodating travelers while changes were made, the program progressed in stages, prompting Vossbrink to refer to the process as a ‘billion-dollar kitchen remodel’.
Completed in June of 2010, the 1.3 billion dollar modernization program included a new 3,300-space rental car and public parking facility, ‘ConRAC’, the renovation and expansion of the airport’s existing Terminal A and the creation of new Terminal B. Overseen by Hensel Phelps Construction Co. and designed by Denver-based Fentress Architects the facility is now the most technologically advanced airport in the United States. As impressive as that is, however, for passengers it’s the details not the scope of the design/build that will impact them the most.
While it’s impossible to do away with the stress of travel entirely, SJC has made great strides in alleviating that stress for their discerning clientele, employing new and established technology in a manner aimed at enhancing their peace of mind and comfort. That technology runs the gamut from one of the world’s most advanced baggage screening systems to the inclusion of 1200 Zenky ‘Air Chairs’ throughout, as well as a high quality, highly intelligible, distributed audio system that incorporates hundreds of Tannoy in-ceiling loudspeakers. The project also involved the comprehensive modernization of the facility’s lighting systems and IT backbone.
To further speak to their clientele’s needs, free Wi-Fi was introduced in Spring 2008, mid-renovation. “Not radical, but unusual in the airport world,” says Vossbrink. “But,” he adds, “not only do you want to satisfy your tech savvy road warrior with free Wi-Fi, you want to allow them an opportunity to plug in their devices.”
True enough. We’ve all had the experience of huddling over laptops and phones to work as they recharge between flights. Typically sitting on the floor to be close to inconveniently placed power outlets that seem to be industry standard in many major and secondary transportation hubs worldwide. The solution, the aforementioned ‘air chairs’, which are equipped with both standard three prong and USB power outlets for passenger use.
A common-use system was also instituted so any gate in the terminal can be assigned to any airline rather than requiring carriers to rent specific gates long term. The result is a more productive use of infrastructure, reduced cost to carriers who only rent a gate for the period of time they use it, and – most welcome – the ability to use any free gate to offload passengers rather than their having to wait on the tarmac for a gate to be available at times of heavy traffic. A situation, regrettably, that is all too common at other major airports. As is, all too often, the type of public address system that sounds more like someone is trying to talk around a mouthful of hot porridge than making any kind of serious attempt at imparting information. Happily, that’s not the case at SJC…
For Miamisburg, Ohio’s Signature Technologies Inc., which does business in the industry as Com-Net Software, the implementation of SJC’s new state of the art audio system was a multiple phase project that began in early 2008. In this case construction manager, Convergent Strategies Consulting Inc., now BLC Partners Inc., was responsible for the original overarching design and Com-Net Software was contracted specifically to provide and integrate the public address system along with the existing visual display component.
Because of the nature of the build high levels of intelligibility weren’t just desired, but required. The airport’s audio system does double duty for secondary fire and lifesaving purposes and needed to pass rigorous STIPa tests to comply with the intelligibility guidelines called for by the NFPA 72: National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code.
Known for their excellent sound quality, wide and even dispersion and long term durability, Tannoy’s CMS 601 two-way ceiling monitors are ideal for an application where potentially high levels of ambient noise and constant, heavy usage are the order of the day. In all over 400 Tannoy CMS 601 BMs are mounted in roughly a ten-foot x ten-foot grid pattern throughout Terminal B, providing audio reinforcement for day-to-day public address and background music.
While several loudspeaker solutions were considered for the build, in the interests of specifying the best solution for this application Tannoy CMS 601s were chosen based on the familiarity and comfort gained from their use in other Com-Net Software projects, as well as their ability to meet project specifications for intelligibility and budget. The resulting system provides maximum clarity in an environment where a lack of clarity can make for an incredibly frustrating travel experience.
“We had a great team,” says Vossbrink. In any kind of construction project, whether a multi million-dollar project or your average kitchen remodel there are often disputes between the owner and client after the build. “Instead of having disputes, this one ended with everybody singing Kumbayah. You know you’ve got a good program when everybody lines up and says ‘I had a part in this’, rather than backing off and saying I had nothing to do with it.”