San Francisco International Airport installs airside tap drinking water bottle refill stations for thirsty travellers

San Francisco International Airport installs airside tap drinking water bottle refill stations for thirsty travellers | San Francisco International Airport,SFO,GlobalTap,LEED

Hydration Station by SFO's Terminal 3 food court (photo: SFO)

Mon 14 Mar 2011 – With airports looking to protect the commercial interests of their catering concessions, drinking water fountains are, at best, hard to find by thirsty passengers relieved of their water bottles before passing through security and faced with buying expensive bottled water airside. As part of a city-wide campaign to persuade the public to drink what it considers the best tap drinking water in the world and reduce the amount of plastic waste, two ‘Hydration Stations’ have been installed airside in San Francisco International Airport’s (SFO) Terminal 3 and International Terminal. Travellers are encouraged to take an empty drink bottle with them through security. SFO is gaining a reputation as one of world’s greenest airports and its new Terminal 2, due to open next month, will be the first airport terminal to achieve the coveted LEED Gold environmental certification.


Sourced from Sierra snowmelt, San Francisco’s tap water comes from the Hetch Hetchy reservoir located in Yosemite National Park and from two protected local watersheds in the Bay Area. The airport claims it is some of the purest, safest and best tasting water in the world.


The question mark-shaped bottle refill stations were developed by design consultancy IDEO and GlobalTap, an international clean-water organisation that aims to provide the public with better access to clean drinking water and to raise awareness about worldwide water issues.


Basic manufacturing and assembly techniques were used so that the bottle refill stations can be built, installed and maintained with minimal cost or effort worldwide. “The design is flexible enough to accommodate internal filters and other future technologies, yet robust enough to endure all sorts of potential outdoor abuse. In developing countries, where the safety of drinking water is of special concern, the addition of filtering technologies will be key to water safety,” adds IDEO.


Fifteen filling stations have so far been installed in the San Francisco area and the ‘Hydration Stations’ have been fitted near the food court at SFO’s Terminal 3, used by United Airlines, and near Gate A1 in the International Terminal.


A further station will be available for travellers using the re-vamped Terminal 2 (T2) when it opens on April 14. The new home for American Airlines and Virgin America, it will not only be the most modern airport terminal in the United States, it will also be the most sustainable, claims SFO.


“T2 demonstrates how we can achieve sustainability in a way that enhances the traveller experience,” says Airport Director John Martin. “From the early design and construction practices to paperless ticketing – we have provided this experience using sustainable methods at every step along the way.”


The terminal was built with multiple progressive sustainable features that aimed at reducing carbon emissions while also creating a more “healthful” environment for travellers and staff, says the airport.


Sustainable building materials have been used including terrazzo flooring with recycled glass chips, recycled-content carpet and “innovative and efficient” use of structural steel. Other features include a modern displacement ventilation system that uses filtered air to improve indoor air quality, while using 20% less energy, and a dual plumbing system that allows for the use of reclaimed water from SFO’s water treatment facility. Waste stations will replace traditional garbage cans with easy-to-use compartments for composting, recyclables and trash. Passengers, who will be able to connect easily to the mass transit system connecting the airport and the city, will find catering vendors in the terminal selling locally grown organic food.


T2 will serve as Virgin America’s principle base of operations, with the airline being involved in the design concept process of its own space within the terminal that it anticipates will achieve LEED Platinum status, the highest green building certification level.




San Francisco International Airport – Hydration Stations

San Francisco International Airport – Environmental Sustainability

San Francisco International Airport – Terminal 2 green preview

San Francisco Public Utilities Commission – Drink tap

IDEO – water bottle refilling stations




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