Sunset Cove - San Diego International Airport

Contrarian Micro Textures

A groundbreaking ceremony in 2009 marked the start of construction on The Green Build terminal, the largest and most ambitious expansion project in the history of the San Diego International Airport. The project is noteworthy for many reasons, not the least of which is the LEED Platinum certification it received from the U.S. Green Building Council. It was the first commercial airport in the world to be so recognized. The project is also a feather in the cap of Contrarian Metal Resources. The company's Starlight 7J™ stainless steel was used on the 140 columns incorporated into the design of the terminal's Sunset Cove shopping and concession core.

The Green Build terminal expansion was part of the Airport Authority’s Airport Master Plan. It was created to identify ways to meet current and future demand for air travel at the airport. The Green Build added 10 new gates, a dual-level roadway to separate arriving and departing passengers, a new USO facility, and the 9,200-square-foot concessions core, among other things. 

From the onset, the project was designed with efficiency and detail in mind, aiming to achieve Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. Selected to bring the vision of The Green Build to life was HTNB, in conjunction with Turner Construction, PCL Construction and Flatiron. 

Tom Rossbach, HNTB Director of Aviation, explained the process, “We were very fortunate to participate in the planning and development of the original master plan and then chosen for design as well. We worked in collaboration with the owner and contractor as decisions evolved and were made.” 

As construction on the project progressed, the opportunity to go beyond expectations and achieve LEED Platinum for The Green Build terminal expansion was within reach. In April 2014, San Diego International Airport officially announced being the first LEED Platinum commercial airport terminal in the world, complementing LEED Gold certification for the dual-level roadway and USO building portion of the project. 

At the heart of The Green Build terminal expansion is Sunset Cove, the shopping and dining concessions core. It features floor-to-ceiling windows that maximize natural lighting and offers sweeping views of the airfield and neighboring community. The design also features 140 columns clad in Contrarian's Starlight 7J™, a reflective and uniformly textured stainless steel that provides an excellent finish consistency resulting in panel-to-panel matching suitable for high traffic areas. Engineered and fabricated by C.R. Laurence, the stainless steel was incorporated into the company’s Premier Dry Seal Column Cover System. 

Seventy different column styles are used within the space. Seventy different templates had to be created to fabricate their covers. David Cattle, Turner Construction Project Executive had this to share, “The lighting for the concession area (Sunset Cove) was embedded and recessed for a clean look and the fabrication and installation had to be coordinated exactly with the intricate shop drawings. Starlight 7J™ was chosen because of its finger print resistance, its smear and discoloration resistance and its high quality. Its reflectivity is a side benefit.” 

“Our design intention was that Sunset Cove be an elegant, high quality, yet durable space. Through our true collaboration process we chose Starlight 7J™ because of its beauty, quality, constructability and it even met the cost component. The client was involved every step of the way and we came to the decision together. The reflectivity gives sparkle to our space and we are pleased with the outcome,” Rossbach added. 

“One of our objective’s was to raise the bar in passenger experience, by offering an elegant, high quality space with a durable, timeless appearance that represents San Diego,” explained Bob Bolton, San Diego Airport Authority Director of Design & Construction. “The quality of the work of all involved, including the design team, contractors, sub contractors, fabricators, the airport and the USGBC together produced these top-quality results. The very custom intricate forms from the architect’s details were substantial and Turner Construction and C.R. Laurence together produced these perfectly matching column covers,” he added.

Photos courtesy of San Diego International Airport

About Contrarian Micro Textures

Rigidized-logoContrarian Micro Textures by Rigidized Metals, formerly Contrarian Metal Resources, is a micro-textured line of high-performance architectural metals including stainless steel and titanium. For more information, visit

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