Walter P Moore Awarded 2016 Outstanding Engineering Achievement for San Francisco's New Air Traffic Control Tower

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ACEC awards firm/project the 2016 “Grand Conceptor,” top project in the U.S.

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The SFO ATCT is truly a work of engineering excellence. We were very pleased with the skill and ingenuity that Walter P Moore brought to the structure. — Geoffrey Neumayr, Deputy Airport Director of Design & Construction, San Francisco Int'l Airport

The American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC) has named the new Air Traffic Control Tower at San Francisco International Airport (SFO) the 2016 Grand Conceptor award-winner, signifying “the year’s most outstanding engineering achievement” in its 49th annual Engineering Excellence Awards on April 19, 2016. More than 500 attended the black-tie Engineering Excellence Awards Gala in Washington, D.C. that recognized 151 preeminent engineering accomplishments from throughout the nation and the world.

Designed by international engineering firm Walter P Moore, the iconic new air traffic control tower serving the nation’s seventh busiest airport features pioneering seismic engineering that provides both toppling resistance and a self-centering capability during an earthquake. The new tower replaces the previous 1960s-era control tower, which was temporarily knocked out of commission during the 6.9 magnitude 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, compromising air safety. It is the first air traffic control tower delivered through a partnership between the airport and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

As structural engineer for the project, Walter P Moore was recognized for establishing several industry milestones with their design. The tower relies on an innovative vertical post-tensioned system to self-right the structure during a major seismic event, ensuring that air traffic controllers remain fully operational throughout a magnitude 7.5 earthquake. This is crucial because the airport is just four miles from the San Andreas Fault.

Walter P Moore combined the seismic system with suspended tuned mass dampers that limit perceived sway accelerations due to high winds common to its bayside location, making the new tower a much more comfortable working environment than its predecessor. It is the first application of tuned mass dampers in a seismically-controlled structure, and is the tallest vertical post-tensioned structure in California.

Construction on the new air traffic control tower was completed in August 2015 and will officially open in October 2016 following FAA commissioning. The distinctive circular offset cab ensures unobstructed views of all four runways and includes the latest technological advancements in air traffic control, increasing safety for the 47 million passengers who travel annually through SFO.

“The SFO ATCT is truly a work of engineering excellence,” boasts Geoffrey Neumayr, Deputy Airport Director of Design and Construction, San Francisco International Airport. “We were very pleased with the skill and ingenuity that Walter P Moore brought to the structure. From the beginning, our goal was to build the best tower ever constructed, and the SFO ATCT delivered.”

In addition to SFO and Walter P Moore, the project team included Fentress Architects, Hensel Phelps (General Contractor), URS Corporation (MEP Engineer), and Schuff Steel Company (Steel Fabricator).

The ACEC Engineering Excellence Awards competition recognizes engineering and land surveying firms for projects that demonstrate an exceptional degree of innovation, complexity, achievement, and value. ACEC selects 24 exceptional projects (16 Honor Awards, 8 Grand Awards). One of the eight Grand Award winners is chosen as the Grand Conceptor, or overall best engineering project, which this year was the SFO Air Traffic Control Tower (ATCT). For a comprehensive list of winners, visit

About Walter P Moore
Walter P Moore is an international company of engineers, innovators, and creative people who solve some of the world’s most complex structural and infrastructural challenges. Providing structural, diagnostics, civil, traffic, parking, and transportation engineering services, they design solutions that are cost- and resource-efficient, forward-thinking, and help support and shape communities worldwide. Founded in 1931 and headquartered in Houston, Texas, Walter P Moore‘s 570+ professionals work across 15 U.S. offices and five international locations.

Editor’s Note: There is no period after the ‘P’ in Walter P Moore.

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