SJC Aircraft Rescue and Fire Fighting (ARFF) Facility

Arora Engineers (Arora) provided engineering services for the progressive design/build delivery of a new, 18,300 SF Aircraft Rescue and Fire Fighting (ARFF) Facility located on the South-West end of the Airfield at Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport (SJC). The previous ARFF facility was constructed in 1963— it was a one-story building of approximately 7,200 SF in size and included office space, living quarters for the crew, and four bays for ARFF vehicle storage. The new, contemporary ARFF Facility is unique in that it services both the City of San Jose Station #20 as well as airside aircraft rescue and firefighting operations at SJC, improving access to resources and equipment necessary to protect San Jose residents and the airport’s millions of yearly passengers.

This new ARFF has five apparatus bays housing the airport’s four ARFF vehicles, with one additional bay for maintenance, as well as a landside vehicle bay. The facility also features firefighter dormitories, toilets, showers, kitchen, dining facility, administrative offices, training room, laundry room, storage spaces and utility rooms.

The project also included access road and access control measures on Coleman, utility infrastructure, 27 parking spaces, landscaping, and exterior lighting. The new facility was designed, and materials were specified to achieve a minimum LEED Silver Certification and complied with the City’s Net Zero Ready Building and Zero Net Carbon mandates. The facility is equipped for future solar power implementation with the potential to power roughly 25% of the buildings with solar power.

Arora was selected to provide electrical and plumbing engineering services for the facility, including Critical Operations Powers Systems (COPS).


Arora provided programming, BOD, 30%, 60%, 90% and 100% construction/permitting plans for:

  • Electrical power and lighting, and automatic shutoff system
  • Generator and UPS systems
  • Automated alarm response activation and shut down systems
  • Services for a new AOA vehicle gate
  • Plumbing

While code dictates that COPS facilities must be able to operate fully for 72 hours in the event of loss of power, SJC mandated the facility be able to maintain regular operations for seven full days in the event of a natural disaster. Arora’s engineering team ensured that the mechanical and electrical designs met or exceeded all applicable code and airport-specific requirements for reliability and redundancy, including providing the entire facility with full generator backup and seven days of fuel storage to allow full operations during extended power outages. Backup operation of all HVAC and water systems was provided, and the critical electrical distribution branch and associated electrical feeders were fire rated for up to two hours.

In addition, the team implemented an energy efficient variable refrigerant flow (VRF) HVAC system which helped the team to meet the project’s sustainability goals by allowing the facility operator to modulate how much refrigerant is utilized to condition the air. High efficiency fixtures and Energy Star qualified products were specified, including an electric water heater and kitchen appliances with automatic shut-off in the event of fire alarm. In addition, the parking lot was equipped with electric vehicle charging stations.

The team ensured engagement with all applicable stakeholders throughout the design process and supplied design phase drawings, specifications, and schematic design documents for the city’s approval. The team prepared a design phase report after each design milestone to document and summarize the design development phase decisions, cost estimates, and deviations from the BOD approved by the stakeholder groups, the City’s Airport Senior Team, and the City of San Jose Fire Department. Construction administration services included:

  • RFI’s and ASI’s
  • Shop drawing/submittal reviews
  • On-site observation of work inspection for substantial completion and final completion
  • Drafting of contractor as-built markups.

Contractors broke ground August 17, 2020, and the facility was substantially complete on February 3, 2022.


Design and construction of this new facility was slated to be begin in early 2020 at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, which made team coordination, materials sourcing, and construction services challenging. The design team overcame the challenges of coordinating a complex infrastructure project during a global pandemic by implementing an extensive three-month programming phase to design this important facility which allowed all parties to collaborate effectively to ensure constructability of their design. Design and construction were then expedited to compensate for COVID-related delays on materials and design/build construction services. For any project of this magnitude, communication and close coordination with the entire team is critical, and the team for this COPS facility collaborated on each phase to ensure the project remained on time and on budget.


This project was awarded one of ENR California’s 2022 Regional Best Projects for their Award of Merit – Airport/Transportation. Learn more here.

This project was also selected as one of the Design-Build Institute of America’s 2023 National Project/Team Award winners. The project will be celebrated and showcased as part 2023 Design-Build Conference & Expo in November of 2023 in Washington, D.C.

Photos by MARJANG Architecture.


San Jose International Airport


San Jose, CA