Consolidating rental car companies under one roof freed up much-needed space at San Diego International Airport, but delivering a signature new building to satisfy the client, rental car tenants, and passengers while meeting a fast-track 2-year design and construction schedule was challenging. The resulting 2-million-square foot Rental Car Center (RCC), which sits on a 25-acre site and can accommodate 5,400 rental cars and 19 rental car companies, is a successful and eye-catching expansion of the airport.
WSP was part of the team that designed and constructed the RCC on behalf of the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority. The firm was responsible for all interior and exterior lighting design, except for interior art lighting. In addition, WSP was also responsible for the structural, mechanical, electrical, and plumbing engineering.
On the front of the building, indirect lighting from the columns is used to provide a comfortable, welcoming feeling for the shuttle bus drop-off area. The open lobby uses a combination of “down lights” and “up lights” to provide layers of ambient and task lighting. Color changing the up lighting of the stair towers provides a vertical frame for the horizontal canopy and lobby. The blue-and-white color scheme can be changed for special events. The blue-and-white pattern continues on the nearly one-quarter-mile side of the building facing interstate highways, with white-painted angular precast panels for the façade. At night, the “up lights” provide a soft white glow and dramatic angular shadows on the panels, while nestling into a narrow space between the building, landscaping, and a fire lane.
Control was another challenge due to the large footprint of the RCC. A power line carrier system provides individual control of each fixture while eliminating the need for additional control wire. Though the RCC operates 24/7, the control system includes a photo cell and time clock with 50 percent ambient and all decorative lights off from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. The design exceeds the strict California Title 24 energy code requirements by 19 percent.