Planning and Designing a Supercomputer Center for the United States Military

Steve Kimball, PMP, LEED® AP, emersion DESIGN   

The Information Technology Complex at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base was the first building in a multi-phase master plan that will create a state-of-the-art technology campus for the U.S. Air Force.

The Information Technology Complex was identified in the master planning process to provide state-of-the-art computing, collaborative modeling, and simulation environments required for the rapid infusion of Information Technology to enhance weapon system life-cycle acquisition and support capabilities. The master plan called for five phased buildings, arranged around a landscaped courtyard, joined by a curving circulation spine. Phase 1 integrated leading edge simulation facilities with the supercomputing resources required to drive them. It consolidated critical classified computing and workspaces for modeling, simulation, analysis and design.

emersion DESIGN provided the architectural and interior design services for the Design/Build RFP for the construction of this Phase I, 97,000 square foot, $33 million facility. “This project came with great responsibility,” said Steve Kimball, principal and leader of the Science & Technology practice at emersion DESIGN. “Not only did we need to stay true to the master plan, but the need for technical accommodations was significant. From the demolition of five existing buildings through the planning for future construction of five buildings with stringent security, technology and power demands, we needed to pull from our team’s collective expertise to ensure that no details were overlooked.”

The details and design highlights are noticeable as the constructed Phase I is now an internationally recognized supercomputer center. A few of the notable features include:

  • Cockpit simulation lab
  • Varying security level areas including high restricted areas, as well as secure and unsecured communication networks
  • Modeling and simulation spaces for IT
  • Analysis space
  • Development lab
  • Demonstration room
  • Pilot accommodation space
  • Computer staging area
  • 100 seat auditorium
  • Raised access floor
  • Expanded power resources, dual electrical services and emergency generator and UPS

Phase 1 of the master plan, the Information Technology Complex at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, is an internationally recognized center of excellence and one of the few supercomputing sites in the nation. It is LEED® (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold Certified and has won numerous awards, including the U.S. Air Force Design Award for Concept Design and the U.S. Air Force Materiel Command Design Award for Concept Design.

“We were humbled to be part of a team that delivered the design for a state-of-the-art, and highly secured technology complex, that also offered sustainability in a sophisticated design,” said Kimball. “It has definitely been one of the highlight projects of my career, and I look forward to the future phases.”

During the design of the Information Technology Complex, the opportunity developed for additional square footage. A new requirement for a battery room was added to the building’s original design and located beneath the entrance plaza. This ground-level roof presented itself as a viable candidate for a green-roof design. A plastic-tray grid system, similar to flower trays, applied on top of a waterproof membrane was devised and filled with noninvasive plantings requiring minimal maintenance. Access at ground level also was a plus for this type of roof. It was the perfect opportunity for a green roof application and helped the building earn LEED Gold certification.


Leave a Reply

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