Ellington Airport Air Traffic Control Tower and Utility Building
Best Project and Award of Merit, Safety

Owner: Houston Airport System
Lead Design Firm/Civil Engineer/Structural Engineer: AECOM
General Contractor: Clark Construction Group LLC
MEP Engineer: VoltAir Consulting Engineers
Structural Engineer for Utility Building: Concept Engineers Inc.

An innovative plan for erecting structural steel improved safety, quality and scheduling on the Ellington Airport Air Traffic Control Tower and Utility Building project in Houston.

The tower is critical to military and aviation missions and activities at the Ellington Joint Reserve Base. The tower, built in 1955 was damaged by Hurricane Ike. 

A key challenge was to erect the steel structure for the tower’s top level in a way that ensured safety and kept the project on schedule. The original plans called for the structure to go up within six weeks, but that time frame was shortened by unforeseen delays.

Working with the steel subcontractor, Clark Construction Group developed a plan to build the steel structure on site and on ground level and then lift it into place. Because the lift had to take place in a single try, the team relied on temporary steel bracing—along with extensive collaboration.

Adding to scheduling demands, federal, state and local aviation agencies required early entry into the tower during construction to install equipment. To make this possible, the project team completed equipment rooms early and commissioned power and communication systems ahead of schedule.

The concrete and steel structure is built to withstand extreme weather conditions and features hurricane-rated window systems, three separate IT rooms and a dedicated utility building with redundant emergency systems.

Over the course of 155,000 worker hours, the project team had zero lost-time incidents or recordables. The contractor took a culture-based approach to safety and implemented safety rubrics geared toward daily onsite safety.

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