Design Award Entries

FAA Air Traffic Control Tower

A competition entry for the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Air Traffic Control Tower international open design competition. With a focus on sustainable and innovative design, the project aims to meet the requirements of the competition brief by utilizing precast concrete and digital fabrication tools coupled with passive cooling and heating strategies.

Project Statement

Faced with a growing number of aging Air Traffic Control Towers, the FAA hosted an open design competition for the rapid deployment and replacement of current facilities nationwide. The competition sought innovative design strategies that would allow designs to be adapted to varying height conditions ranging from 60 to 119 feet. Other requirements included the ability to quickly adapt to changes in climate and site conditions based on the wide variety of locations, to be durable with an anticipated age range of 50 to 60 years, to have the ability to be quickly constructed and deployed across the United States, and for the design to utilize innovative sustainable solutions.

Our design addressed these requirements by creating a 12 foot prefabricated shell module that stacks to meet the varying height constraints. Each module shell is composed of an assembly of concrete fins, thin shell precast concrete wall panels, and a mixture of clear and photovoltaic glass. Vertical circulation elements, utility chases, and Air Traffic Control Tower program requirements, such as meeting and mechanical rooms, would all be housed within this shell.

At the base of the tower, the prefabricated shell is open to the air. This allows quick and unrestricted access to the tower’s vertical circulation components, the elevator and the stair. As the tower gains height, the prefabricated concrete shell module begins wrapping around these vertical program elements. Additionally, opening the base of the tower up produces a stack effect cooling or heating depending on the HVAC configuration. The glass and concrete shaft heat the air at the base creating pressure differences to produce air flow. The temperature of this air can then be used to supplement the load placed on mechanical systems.

The design includes several sustainable solutions. Leaving the base of the tower open to the elements allows the glass and concrete shaft to heat the air producing the stack effect. This airflow can then be used to supplement the towers HVAC systems depending on the towers location. The glass infill panels inside each concrete fin are designed with photovoltaic glass. Because of the large area of glass used it is estimated that each tower could produce enough power to both offset their own energy needs and produce additional power for their locations.

Utilizing prefabricated precast modules increases the speed, efficiency, and quality of the construction. Each module would be shop built in controlled factory conditions and shipped to the site for rapid on-site deployment. Additionally, precast concrete and prefabricated construction decreases the amount of material wasted during construction adding to the overall sustainable footprint of the towers.

AIA Arkansas