Ronald Reagan National Airport Secure National Hall

Arora Engineers, Inc. (Arora) was part of the joint venture team identified as AIR Alliance, comprised of AECOM and PGAL for the new Secure National Hall project at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA). The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) procured professional engineering services for on-call planning, design, and construction projects at DCA as part of Project Journey, a $1 billion multi-year capital improvement program designed to transform the passenger experience at DCA. The new Secure National Hall was designed to heighten security at airport and to improve the screening experience for passengers and TSA officers.

The new 100,000 square foot checkpoints, located in the airport’s iconic Secure National Hall, expand TSA’s screening operation from 20 to 23 total lanes, with the ability to expand to a total of 28 lanes. Screening operations were relocated, and the new facilities engineered to create a seamless, free-flowing environment between Terminal B/C and the new 14-gate concourse. The checkpoints offer sufficient room for TSA equipment and includes an area for passengers to recompose themselves after being screened. This not only increases capacity but ensures a comfortable space and experience for travelers.

The checkpoint improvements are a key part of Project Journey which included the construction of an enclosed $391.5 million regional aircraft concourse that will offer passengers greater connectivity, more shopping and dining options, and a more gratifying post-security space.


Arora’s overall scope of services for AIR Alliance included Plumbing, Fire Alarm and Fire Protection engineering services for the Secure National Hall Project. Arora was also responsible for conceptual design services integrating renovated space in the National Hall and the New North Concourse connector with the existing systems and technology at DCA. Additionally, Arora provided Construction Administration services for the Secure National Hall.

In providing plumbing and fire protection design services, the team produced creative solutions to accommodate the complex roof forms of the new security checkpoint buildings. Several coordination efforts took place with other disciplines for routing of the storm water piping from the new roof to the existing leaders to a below ground main. This yielded in a very clean design of an exposed roof structure and maintaining of the aesthetic qualities of the building.

Typical fire protection systems are designed for a flat or sloped roof; therefore, it will usually only vary in two directions. However, the roof of DCA’s new security checkpoint buildings has a tilted-wave-like design, meaning the roof varied in three different directions (an XYZ system).

In the design approach, Arora was tasked with getting the sprinklers placed up high, but still being able to merge with the existing wet system. Therefore, they had to consider regulating pressure losses and not exceeding the current pressure system supply. Maintaining cost and adequate safety measures were also critical to the design.

In a sprinkler system, you are always draining back to a common source for testing purposes, so the system can be inspected. In this space, the team had to look closely at the elevation in the design (foot-by-foot increments along a 400-foot span, per building), be mindful of the routing, and they had to avoid pitfalls of low points and artificial high points. Through their creative efforts, the team was able to match the profile of the roof, while maintaining a positive slope back to a common drain.

The team also focused on the routing below the structure, again considering the dry system they were working with. A key concern with these types of systems is that they must be protected from freezing while crossing through an unconditioned space. In this design, the source water was on the opposite end of the building from the point of use, therefore the piping had to loop back around to get to the ceiling. There was no right-of-way of direct piping in this design. Keeping pressure loss in mind, as well as water demand, the team had to decrease the size of each individual system, while increasing the number of zones.

These constraints generated multiple iterations of the Fire Protection design. The system was routed half a dozen times, and the team had to collaborate with other disciplines in organizing the building systems (e.g. lighting, electrical, public address, etc.) in limited ceiling plenum. There was also an aesthetic quality to consider by maintaining the spacing from sprinkler to sprinkler.


Metropolitan Washington Airport Authority


Washington, DC