Located just 3 miles east of the central business district of the city of Phoenix, AZ, Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport was a quiet, local airstrip serving a small, sleepy western city when it opened in 1935. Today, the city is the 5th most populous in the United States, and Phoenix Sky Harbor airport is one of the largest aviation facilities in the American Southwest. With over 42 million passengers passing through the facility annually, it has become the 9th busiest airport in the United States in terms of traffic and the 18th busiest in the world. In the late 1990’s the Aviation Department for the City of Phoenix developed a master plan for the expansion of the airport that would a facilitate the city’s current and future transportation needs. Of primary concern was the need to update facility structures, communications and radar technologies with a new Air Traffic Control Tower (ATCT) providing an unobstructed view of the entire airfield.
Jacobs Facilities of Arlington, VA, was commissioned to design a new tower and base building that would co-locate all air traffic control and radar approach control operations in one facility. In response, Jacobs designed a 320’ tall tower that not only provides an unobstructed view of the entire airfield and beyond, but provides protection for the air traffic controllers from bright sunlight and the harsh temperatures of the Arizona desert. The new $89 million facility became fully operational in January 2007. One of the tallest structures of its kind in the world, the tower can be seen from miles around the city, and has quickly become a landmark on the Phoenix skyline. Jacobs Construction Services of Arlington, VA, served as the General Contractor for the project.
The Riverside Group Ltd., of Windsor, Ontario, Canada fabricated 55,000 sq. ft. of Reynobond® LDPE, 4mm Aluminum Composite Material in standard Platinum, standard Frisco White and Custom Copper Metallic with a Duranar finish for the exterior walls of the tower, base and connector buildings. The material was manufactured by Alcoa Architectural Products. Enclos Corporation of Pomona, CA, installed the panels.
“The architect’s concept employed color and textured materials reminiscent of the Grand Canyon and other surrounding landscape features. The tapered and angled elements incorporated throughout the project were included as a compositional reflection of nearby geologic formations,” said Stuart Salonen of the Riverside Group Ltd. “The inverted cone-shape of the upper ATCT - wider at the top and tapering towards the bottom is sub-divided symmetrically by vertical major and minor fins. Other interesting features include the heavily curved bullnose at the pinnacle of the tower and the multi-faceted panel surfaces within the body of the upper ATCT. Architecturally, there were so many different features included in this design that the engineering required to bring this to reality was enormous. We constructed a comprehensive 3D model of the highly complex upper tower configuration and extracted the individual components for precise design and fabrication from 2D flat sheet material. There was also a high degree of coordination required with site field measuring crews so that fabrication of each panel into its 3D final shape would allow for precise fit within the structure like pieces of a puzzle.
“The architect envisioned a multi-dimensional façade that incorporated several different materials,” continued Salonen. “During the design/development stage, it was our responsibility to help Jacobs understand the unique capabilities of each material and where and how they might be used within the context of the overall design. The cladding system used on the upper tower’s façade had to be engineered to withstand substantial wind-loads at that height. It also had to have the flexibility to be formed and curved into the unique shapes specified by the design. By using Reynobond® ACM as the primary material on the façade, we were able to take an extremely creative architectural design from concept to reality without sacrificing on durability or design elements.”
The structure was engineered with extensive bracing and stiffening to ensure the stability of the 320’ tower and protect it from the desert’s extreme temperatures. Riverside Group’s R4-300 Pressure-Equalized Rainscreen Cladding System was selected based on its ability to accommodate for significant thermal expansion and contraction typically experienced in a desert environment.