After decades of cramped quarters, travelers passing through San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport will now have a modern experience that is reflective of the beauty of California’s Central Coast.

On Nov. 1, the airport unveiled its new, 55,000-square-foot terminal building.

A project that has been 20 years in the making, the new facility, which RS&H designed, is six times larger than the existing building. Gone are the days of queuing outside the terminal to check in due to lack of space.

“The airport was in desperate need,” said Dennis Iskra, one of RS&H’s project architects. “The existing facility was antiquated and undersized.”

Designing a long-sought after and desperately needed facility amidst magnificent scenery meant high expectations for the final product. The RS&H team knew that integrating the region’s natural beauty and old-California charm while creating a modern terminal facility would be a top priority.

In a region that hosts a variety of tourism, agriculture and coastal activities, the team wanted the building to represent the local residents’ love of the outdoors, Iskra said.

Placement of the building on the site offered a unique opportunity help meet the community’s high expectations. Directly surrounded by world-renowned wineries like Paso Robles and Edna Valley, the terminal is oriented to offer breathtaking views of the vineyards and mountains.

The extensive use of glass throughout the building takes full advantage of the scenery and allows for daylight harvesting. In keeping with the local resident’s focus on the natural environment and quality of life, RS&H designed a LEED Silver equivalent project, though the airport chose not to pursue certification.

One of the most unique aspects of the building is the exterior courtyard that connects the landside to the hold rooms. After check-in and security screening, passengers have the option to wait for boarding in the beautifully sculpted garden, which takes advantage of the year-round, near perfect weather of the region.

For such a complex and high profile project, the design and construction process remained on schedule and on budget. Iskra and Jeff Reddy, another RS&H project architect, attributed this partially to the International Partnering Institute (IPI) method that was used throughout the project.

IPI brings design and construction teams together throughout the life of the project to unite over the shared objective of a successful project.

But while passengers revel in the newfound and much needed space in the terminal, the airport faces the question of what could be next.

The airport has grown tremendously after suffering a huge decrease during the recession. Just since the start of the project, commercial flights have more than doubled at the airport.

“In fact,” said Iskra, “the apron might exceed even the wildest expectations and be at capacity when it opens.”

Regardless, the half a million passengers expected to pass through the building in the next year will be able to enjoy amenities fitting of California’s Central Coast.