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New Sea-Tac Airport concourse opens to passengers

Passengers will be shuttled to and from their planes from an annex by Concourse D

Heywood Chan, YE-H Photography/HOK/Courtesy of Port of Seattle

As the Seattle area grows, so does the strain on traffic and air travel. Case in point: Sea-Tac Airport, according to the Port of Seattle, has had the fastest-growing number of passengers out of every major airport in the country for the past five years. Passenger traffic increased a whopping 43 percent in that same time period, according to the Port, from 33.2 million to 46.9 million. During the busiest traffic periods, says the Port, there’s not a single gate in the airport that’s not in use, holding flights waiting for a gate and using 100,000 gallons of fuel a month just from idling alone from May through June of this year.

While our population is growing quickly, airport growth takes a little more time; construction of a new international terminal is underway, for example. But hopefully, a new facility will take some of the edge off: a two-story annex to Concourse D, adding six gates and 32,400 square feet, which Port says will accommodate the influx of passengers.

The facility was designed by international architecture firm HOK, surrounded by a glass curtain wall with timber trusses from local Douglas firs. Reflective roofing, air curtains, and radiant heat help maintain temperature with minimal impact. A rainwater management system directs runoff from the roof and uses it to irrigate landscaping. The Port expects the facility to become North America’s first airport terminal building to reach LEED Silver v4 certification.

Alan Bright, a senior design principal on the project with HOK, said that the building was designed to “[evoke] the joy of flight” and inspired by “the majestic great blue heron.”

“The design creates a beautiful, daylit open pavilion with an expressed structure,” said Bright. “Integrating natural materials from the local landscape provides a calming, enjoyable experience for travelers and the people who work here.”

Unlike most of the concourses passengers are used to, the new annex will be used for “hardstand operations”—so rather than directly boarding or deboarding to and from the concourse, passengers are shuttled to and from a plane stopped away from the terminal building.

“It looks and functions like a traditional terminal,” said Sea-Tac managing director Lance Lyttle in a statement. “In fact, it rivals or exceeds the offerings in some of the airport’s other holdroom areas.”

To access the facility, passengers will cross a bridge from the existing Concourse D. Like Sea-Tac’s other concourses, the area has concessions, charging stations, and restrooms.

The new facility opens to passengers later this fall. Another major expansion, an international terminal that will more than double travel capacity, is set to open toward the end of 2019.

This article initially said that the Port expects the facility to become North America’s first airport terminal building to reach LEED Silver certification. The Port actually expects the facility to be the first to reach LEED Silver v4 certification. We regret the error.