Community recreation centers are taking on new vitality, as focal points around which communities and neighborhoods can come together, to engage in play and collective use. While these buildings may be small and compact, they contribute to the city, by transforming the public spaces around them into places where the interaction of communities goes beyond the simple inhabitation of buildings. 

Additionally, recreation centers can assume a secondary role of primary importance – as a hyper-local operational hub for residents in the event of a natural disaster. These recreational centers represent  a distributed network operating on the local level, which can function as disaster shelters, and post disaster operations and command centers. Recreation centers often serve as a level playing field, where a wide range of users can meet for the common purpose of recreation and play. These centers serve as hubs for local communities, with more nuanced characteristics than the city as a whole, and those characteristics are reflected in the buildings and public spaces and in the community’s neighborhoods, local heritage, people and culture.


Concrete structures play a critical role in making communities stronger and safer. Inherently fire, flood and impact resistant, concrete provides resilience for a range of natural and man-made events. Concrete can be incorporated in several key aspects to make projects more durable and disaster resistant. For example, concrete wall, floor and roof systems offer an unsurpassed combination of structural strength and wind resistance. Hardened and non-combustible exterior finishes for walls and roofs of a home or business provide the best combination of strength and security. In addition, the inorganic composition of cement based materials do not burn, rot, rust or offer a food source for mold and insects.

Resilient communities start with comprehensive planning, including stricter building codes that produce robust structures with long service lives. It is common for emergency service facilities such as hospitals, and fire and police stations to be designed to a higher standard, with the expectation that these will remain operational during and after a disaster event. More durable buildings with high-performance features that incorporate concrete and concrete products can offer enhanced community continuity.

Buildings and structures with resilient design and materials are not only better able to recover following disasters, such as hurricanes, tornados, fires, earthquakes and floods, they are also the new “green” buildings. Builders, architects, and designers have come to recognize that more durable public buildings, homes, and businesses reduce the impact entire communities have on our planet. As the most used man-made material on the planet, concrete has a significant CO2 footprint, which invites considerations for how to optimize impact reductions through resilience, as well as whole building life cycle impacts and other strategies.

Conceptually strong proposals should incorporate aspects of resilience, in which projects not only utilize the durable properties of concrete but also passive resilient programming strategies, which allow alternative uses of space during and immediately after disaster scenarios. Projects should attempt to utilize what is already known of concrete’s properties, while also advancing imaginative proposals with emerging concrete technologies. Combinations of proven and newly emerging concrete strategies and applications will be highly considered. In addition to material properties, innovative environmental attitudes should be expressed in each proposal, suggesting larger roles in the built environment, including concrete’s benefits in the heat island mitigation, stormwater management, passive solar, thermal mass, and other passive strategies which enable continued functionality in post disaster events.

The challenge of this program is to address two scales of thought seemingly at odds. While natural disasters are something that don’t have locality…they generically cover most parts of the globe…how can local responses be developed to address these universal issues? The question posed is how a recreation center can contribute locally to the city, generating a new typology for communities and concrete together. The jury will select winners based on the extent students have developed resourceful ways to integrate portland cement-based solutions into their design to achieve resilient development objectives.


Design an environmentally responsible Recreation Center / Disaster Relief Center, focusing on inherent material attributes through architectural design to preserve tomorrow’s resources. This building should be designed in a way to function as a shelter in place and disaster command center during and immediately following natural disasters such as hurricanes, tornadoes, floods or wildfires. Buildings should incorporate post disaster resources, such as temporary housing, auxiliary power, community communications, food and water distribution, sanitary services, minor medical services, etc. to support relief operations after the event.

The functional and programmatic requirements for the Recreation Center spaces are outlined below. The area allocations are suggestions only and may be altered. Solutions should observe the total gross square footage, within a range of plus or minus ten percent.


The Digital Library is conceived of as a large reading room with tables and furniture to accommodate digital media equipment, primarily an array of computers, and other audio visual equipment.
    Communal area w/ space for 25 computer stations    1,000 sq ft
    IT Closet                                                                      150 sq ft
    IT Offices                                                                      200 sq ft
    Digital Library Total                                                      1,350 sq ft

An indoor classroom for private classes / meeting groups.
    Classroom                                                                    400 sq ft
    Closet                                                                           100 sq ft
    Classroom Total                                                            500 sq ft   

An indoor gymnasium, for a variety of recreational activities, to be utilized as a storm shelter when needed.
    Central Court, (42’ x 50’)                                               2,100 sq ft
    Storage                                                                          200 sq ft
    Public Restrooms    (M/F 500 sq ft each)                      1,000 sq ft
    Kitchen/ Concessions                                                    1,000 sq ft
    Gym Total                                                                       4,300 sq ft       

An outdoor classroom area for lectures and performances. Open air but with a sense of enclosure.
    Classroom                                                                     400 sq ft
    Classroom Total                                                             400 sq ft       

This plaza will serve as a public space for outdoor recreational activities, as well as a post event distribution site for food/water/community communications.  Materials should be a blend of cast concrete, 50% permeable pavers and grass / garden plantings.
    Plaza                                                                             5,000-10,000 sq ft
    Plaza Total                                                                    5,000-10,000 sq ft   

INDOOR Total Square Feet                6,150 sq ft, (net) 7,380 sq ft (gross)
    (Including 20% allowance for Mechanical, Structural & Circulation)

OUTDOOR Total Square Feet            5,400 sq ft, (net) 5,000-10,000 sq ft (gross)


The site for this competition is at the discretion of students and/or faculty sponsors. Requirements, however, are for the site to be located in an urban context. The site needs to be adjacent to a major avenue for ease of public use and access for vehicles entering and exiting the facility. Submissions will be required to explain graphically or otherwise the site selection and strategy.


Designers are encouraged to investigate the nature of the potential natural disaster in the locale of their proposed site. Only one primary hazard need be considered for the purposes of the competition. Additional consideration for secondary impacts (short to medium term loss of power, water, communications, shelter, etc.) should be evaluated and integrated into the design strategy. Often, loss of shelter and disruptions of power, water, food and medical supply distribution accompanies natural disaster, increasing the risk for loss of life, property and spread of disease.


Refer to the International Building Code and the local zoning ordinance for information on parking requirements, height restrictions, set backs, easements, flood, egress and fire containment.


The design project must use portland cement-based applications (site cast, pre-cast, post tensioned, tilt-up, shot-crete, concrete masonry and pavers, etc.) as a key building material for the structure    and site-work. Strategies should integrate resilience and whole building life cycle impact reductions (environmental, social, and economic) for the project using innovative methods of structure, fabrication and/or construction.

Program updates, including information on jury members as they are confirmed, may be found on the ACSA website at ACSA and PCA reserve the right to publish drawings, written descriptions, photographs of entries and the names of student entrants, without compensation.

 Eric W. Ellis     Edwin Hernández
 ACSA Senior Director of Operations & Programs   
 ACSA Programs Coordinator
 email:    email:

+ Guidelines

Program (PDF)