FAA selects innovative design for greener airport control towers across U.S.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has selected a visually striking, sustainable design for new air traffic control towers, to replace the existing outdated towers at more than 100 municipal and regional airports across the U.S.

The design by Practice for Architecture and Urbanism (PAU) of New York meets key sustainability requirements and can adjust to the tower height to meet each airport’s traffic and sightline requirements, while reducing construction and operational costs.

According to the firm, it has developed a new generation of air traffic control towers with an adaptable and sustainable design. Inspired by the Chinese American architect, I.M. Pei’s iconic mid-century towers, the design combines aesthetics and functionality for the modern era. PAU’s streamlined model showcases its structural, mechanical, and operational building systems, featuring visually captivating geometries and exposed beams and columns.

The new air traffic control towers are standardized yet highly flexible, allowing for customized colors and materials to fit the unique characteristics of each location. They are designed to accommodate different structural systems, ranging from 19.2 to 36.3 m (63 to 119 ft), and utilize a combination of precast concrete and sustainable cross-laminated timber (CLT) for floors and walls. This ensures compliance with seismic and climate requirements for various regions.

The interior spaces prioritize the well-being of air traffic controllers, with integrated daylighting, comfort systems, and fresh air ventilation to create a hygienic environment. The materials and finishes are chosen for easy maintenance over extended periods of time.

To promote sustainability, PAU’s design incorporates geothermal heating and cooling for clean, renewable energy generation. Other eco-friendly features include steel and metal products with high recycled content, low embodied carbon construction materials, ultra-efficient water fixtures and equipment, advanced energy monitoring systems, high-performance facades with minimal thermal bridging, and all-electric building systems.

The modular design of PAU’s prototype allows for efficient construction, with a focus on shop fabrication over on-site work. This approach reduces the carbon footprint associated with each tower.

“We are grateful and honored to have the opportunity to design the nation’s next generation of air traffic control towers—a major component of U.S. transportation secretary Pete Buttigieg’s plan to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the U.S. aviation sector by 2050,” says PAU founding principal and creative director, Vishaan Chakrabarti. “As a practice that finds great creative possibility within tight constraints, we are thrilled to accept this challenge to create beautiful, functional architecture that serves the needs of air traffic controllers across the country while enhancing safety and reliability for the traveling public.”

The FAA’s preferences include the design having standardized elements to reduce construction and operational costs, while allowing for the building to be tailored to local climate and location issues, such as very high and very low temperatures, wet and dry environments, and high winds.

The initial set of 31 control towers at candidate airports would replace towers that are functioning beyond their intended design life.  FAA has set aside more than $500 million from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to support site evaluation, preparation, and early construction activities.

The first groundbreaking could begin in 2024.

Leave a Comment


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *