The Consolidated Rental Car Facility (RCC) is a 4-story, 2 million square foot building at the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority. The $319 million rental car center consolidates the operations of 17 rental car companies into one location. The facility is located within Airport property and includes fueling, car wash, and light maintenance facilities on the first three levels. The project is targeting a LEED Silver Certification from the United States Green Building Council. Major elements of construction are: cast in place concrete structure with a deep pile foundation system, customer service building with offices and customer transaction counter space, car maintenance bays equipped with car washes on levels 1 to 3, lifts and fueling stations on levels 1 to 3, enhanced skin façade and canopy elements, three public art installations, landscaping and bio swales, employee parking and roadway and underground infrastructure improvements.
“Beautiful Form, Mindful Function”
When form and function combine to elevate a utilitarian structure into an architectural statement – with both visible and invisible benefits – and both serious and whimsical elements – it merits consideration for an Orchid Award for Architecture.
Facts and Figures
The Rental Car Center (RCC) at San Diego International Airport (SAN), opened in January 2016, is a visually imposing building. Situated on a 25.5-acre site, it is 1,400 feet long, 650 feet wide, four levels high, comprises 2.1 million square feet and can accommodate more than 5,000 vehicles. Primarily a cast-in-place concrete building, it took 3,256 tons of structural steel and 100,000 cubic yards of concrete – enough to build a four-foot-wide sidewalk from San Diego to Phoenix.
The RCC is the largest concrete building in San Diego, consolidating operations of 15 rental car company brands processing over 1.1 million transactions a year. Total cost was $316 million, completely funded by SAN’s owner and operator – the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority. Ground was broken in October 2013 and the structure itself was built in under two years.
Contractor was Austin-Sundt Joint Venture, lead architect was Demattei Wong Architecture, and engineers were WSP/ Parsons Brinkerhoff.
From its conception, the RCC was envisioned to look like anything BUT a rental car center, given its location facing Interstate 5, and the residential neighborhoods of Old Town, Little Italy and Mission Hills. To accomplish this, the exterior façade is entirely made up of pre-cast concrete panels with a flowing appearance, accented by colorful lighting at night.
The color palette, materials and various elements were chosen to ensure the RCC’s visual relation to other structures at SAN. As just one example, using the similar canopy material used outside Terminal 2 created a visual linkage and allowed for two open-air lobbies.
As with all of SAN’s facilities, public art is seamlessly integrated into the site to create a memorable, aesthetically pleasing and entertaining experience that enhances the Rental Car Center environment. Atlanta-based artist Amy Landesberg created two interior installations that contemplate our relationship to cars, and imagine how an assembly of their parts might take on a lift of their own. Autoplast I: Tail Light Swarm consists of 801 Hyundai Elantra taillights, and Autoplast II: Side Mirror Hive is comprised of 2,200 truck and van side-view mirrors. Using humor and dramatic scale, both artworks transform common car parts into life forms, and model behaviors observed in nature.
Located adjacent to busy roadways, the airfield, and San Diego Bay, Los Angeles-based Christian Moeller’s MetroGnomes is uniquely situated at the intersection of many modes of transportation. Using an internal pivot mechanism developed by the oldest clock maker in Europe, the pair of 54 foot tall kinetic sculptures endlessly tick and tock in slow, graceful movements.
And, coming late this year, “Dazzle” will cover much of the outward-facing façade, employing 2,200 panels of a smart technology called e-paper to create a constantly changing, programmable work of art that spans 1,200 linear feet. Developed by artist team Ueberall International, it will be the largest installation of its kind in the world, and the first time the e-paper technology has been used on an architectural scale.
“Efficiency” is the best to describe the RCC. It consolidates rental car companies whose operations were scattered on Harbor Island, along Harbor Drive and even up on Kettner Blvd. To maximize participation, SAN built out spaces for the smaller companies.
Because SAN sits on a highly constrained 661-acre site, building up, not out, is essential. However, that needs to be done with mindfulness of the setting – on San Diego Bay, with its environmental and view considerations.
Further efficiency was achieved through shared-use fueling and washing stations. The RCC contains 72 fueling stations. Inside fueling is unique and presented challenges that were overcome in the name of efficiency and safety.
Functionality extends to customer service and goes beyond the obvious advantage of being the single location rental car customers must get to and from. And customers now take one of 25 SAN-owned, alternate-fuel buses along a dedicated, on-airport roadway (Admiral Boland Way) – instead of one of 81 traditional buses with each company deploying its own.
Community and Environmental Benefits
Construction of the RCC generated approximately 4,600 jobs. Of the total $316 million, about $186 million of construction contracts were awarded to local businesses, with $70.4 million of that going to local small businesses.
The RCC location off Pacific Highway means that virtually all rental car traffic (vehicles and shuttle buses) has been taken off Harbor Drive, reducing total traffic volume by 15 percent. Use of alternate-fuel buses (and far fewer of them) significantly reduces GHG emissions.
Although the RCC is operational 24/7, 365 days a year, the lighting was designed to be energy efficient, reducing lighting levels in some areas during off-peak times. The facility reclaims 80 percent of the water from the car wash operation , and a bio-swale area collects rainwater and run-off, preventing either from reaching San Diego Bay.
The RCC was designed to achieve LEED Silver certification, a goal that makes it clear this is not your father’s RCC. In fact, the Airport Authority – which places a premium on sustainability in all its interpretations – has committed to ensuring that every new structure at SAN will be LEED-certified.
Finally, having this structure on airport property means the revenues generated will go to the Airport Authority, in part aiding in the financing of the planned replacement of the 50-year-old Terminal 1. And THAT will be a huge community benefit.
The Rental Car Center at SAN is a visually engaging, extraordinarily efficient, highly contemporary structure that benefits customers, the community and the environment. For all of these reasons, it merits a 2016 Orchid Award for Architecture.
A well-executed combo of planning and common sense results in a modern transportation facility on the north side of San Diego International Airport that removed multiple rental car agencies peppered along the waterfront. Now all of the rental car agencies are in a single facility that is located close to the I-5 freeway and that has many facets to its gleaming white façade.