Control centers, irrespective of the industry, have one thing in common – the architectural space and quality. The Air Route Traffic Control Center, also known as ARTCC, manages the air traffic of a particular zone, which is responsible for the safe departure, en route safety, and landing of the airplanes. The controllers in the control centers are entrusted with many lives daily. However, the maximum productivity of the controllers, apart from the good technical skills of the controller, also depends on various factors stated below, which, unknowingly, the controller goes through in a building. These factors allow for better productivity in the operators along with achieving quality architectural space.

  1. To know their system & discussing the design with client regularly

Control centers involve many tasks, and the maximum information you can have to begin with the design is to know the workflow and business process of the operator on a daily basis. During the design process and planning it becomes crucial to talk to the clients and the operators working in the control center and design as per their system precisely. Make sure that the architectural structure does not create a hindrance in their pattern of work. Knowing their pattern of work will result in a productive and safe control center. Also, standards shall be referred to while considering the clients’ needs.

  1. Provide easy orientation within

In an emergency situation, you definitely do not want the controllers to go all around the spaces, pass through beautiful and long columnade, big courtyards with neatly manicured landscape, and admire all the motifs on a long section of wall, and take hours to reach their destination room! The orientation and location of the rooms and other spaces should be easy to spot and also within easy reach for the operator to react during an emergency.

10 Things to Remember when Designing Air-Route Traffic Control Center  - Sheet1
Plan showing ease of access to rooms, Air Traffic Control Center, Slovenia_©
10 Things to Remember when Designing Air-Route Traffic Control Center  - Sheet2
Compact design for ease of access, Air Traffic Control Center, Slovenia_©
  1. Furniture, equipment and ergonomics

Consider the number of people using the space and their work profile for the size of a space.  The control room design should meet the standards for the dimensions of the space. The sizes of computer screens, video screens, and other equipment should be considered while designing. The design should be operator-centric for their comfort. Factors like unobstructed views to all screens, proper viewing angles, and operator seating comfort should be considered.

10 Things to Remember when Designing Air-Route Traffic Control Center  - Sheet3
Number of computer screens and space required for each person_©
  1. Lighting and Acoustics

In the control centers, the majority of the work is done on the computer screens. Computer and video screens reflect light when the source of light hitting on it is poorly planned. This creates a strong glare on the screens which gives strain on the eyes, and can interfere with the operator’s view, resulting in errors in the work. Providing adjustable and soft lights considering reflectance. It would not only help in better productivity but also avoid work errors.

Also, natural light should be provided in places where there is lesser use of computers and screens, for example, gathering space and canteens. Design devoid of natural light would cause fatigue in the operators.

10 Things to Remember when Designing Air-Route Traffic Control Center  - Sheet4
Natural lighting in corridor spaces, Air Traffic Control Center, Slovenia_©

Acoustics too, play an important role in the designing of control centers. There is a continuous exchange of valuable information through radio, phone, in-person, and video conferencing. But what will happen if all the operators hear all types of conversation while working? The result will be a noisy and distracting workplace. Planning of acoustics through either shapes in a space or materials will decrease the noise levels allowing the operators to focus on their work and save precious time.

  1. Materials and Color palette

Control centers are in use 24 hours a day and all days in a year. The durability of the materials in the building should be thus given priority over aesthetics. Apart from complying with the needs in the above-stated point Lighting and Acoustics, wherein the materials should not aid in glare and also have a high level of sound-absorbing qualities, the materials should be robust. They should be slip-resistant and resistant to any kind of friction.

The colors should not be bright enough to distract the operators from performing their work. The integration of colors and material texture should be balanced enough that it does not distract the controllers. 

In other words, there should be a balance between the lights and colors which make the spaces not gloomy but lively and energetic.

10 Things to Remember when Designing Air-Route Traffic Control Center  - Sheet5
Balanced colour scheme, FAA – TRACON Facility, Merrimack_©
  1. Resilient facilities

There are too many computer screens and electronic equipment in the control centers than we can think of; and huge damage can be caused in case of fire or natural threats like floods, storms, and earthquakes. Damage to computer cables can cause additional harm in case of these threats which, along with data loss, may also result in loss of lives. Designing a resilient structure and also providing fire-rated walls and materials therefore becomes a necessity.

  1. Spaces for Socializing and Resting

The job of controllers requires long hours of work, sitting in one place, and working on computer screens for a long time resulting in increased stress levels and fatigue within them leading to poor productivity. Including spaces for social gathering, a resting area, and physical workout areas like a gym that takes away the tiredness and aids in better focus on work.

10 Things to Remember when Designing Air-Route Traffic Control Center  - Sheet6
Social gathering space, Air Traffic Control Center, Slovenia_©
  1. High security consideration

Even though the air traffic control centers are located within high-security premises, providing additional security within the building is of prime importance. Discussing with the client about the areas that need to be given additional security, and installing architectural elements like various zones for access for the staff, or installing safety devices can help against intruders and man-made threats.

  1. Future expansion

There may be upgrading of computers, video screens, and a need to facilitate more operators in times of need. There may also be a change in the business process which will require additional equipment to cater to their needs. The planning of the control centers should thus be in consideration of future expansion to accommodate these changes.

  1. And lastly, ‘Form must’ follow Function

Form… that’s what we strive to achieve no matter what the project is. This structure will be seen from the airplane by thousands of passengers daily while departure or landing; and definitely, the complex needs to have an iconic design which becomes the identity of the region. Breaking the rules of designing a conventional air-route traffic control center will create an architectural impact on the building of this typology.

10 Things to Remember when Designing Air-Route Traffic Control Center  - Sheet7
Air Traffic Control Center, Slovenia_©
Air Traffic Control Center, Slovenia_©

Pranjali is a passionate artist and an architect who loves to blend her designs with nature. She designs meticulously and is always exploring the impact of architectural spaces on user's mind and body. You will find her lost in travelling, daydreams, books, and also on mountain trails.