International Parking & Mobility Institute

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A Corner on Collaboration

Lessons from a Rising Landmark

Monument Drive Commuter Parking Garage & Transit Center, Fairfax Co., VA

Photo: Kate Wichlinski

 

Located on the corner crossroads of the Fairfax County, VA Government Center, Fairfax County Public Safety Building, and the Fairfax Corner mixed-use development, a new structure, Fairfax County’s recently completed Monument Drive Commuter Parking Garage and Transit Center, has become a new landmark rising along the I-66 beltway.

This project is a testament to the collaborative efforts of design and construction professionals in creating innovative parking solutions that seamlessly blend functionality with aesthetics. Parking structures are more than utilitarian facilities—they can be architectural icons that shape urban landscapes and serve as vital transportation infrastructure components.

In this article, we explore key considerations for the planning, design, and construction of parking structure façades that elevate the evolving needs of modern communities, using insights gleaned from this stunning community project.

About the Project

Designed by HGA Architects and constructed by Howard Shockey & Sons, Inc., the parking structure features a custom cladding exterior façade engineered and fabricated by EXTECH/Exterior Technologies, Inc. The $43 million, 262,000-square-foot commuter center features an eight-level parking structure, indoor/outdoor bicycle storage, ride-sharing pick-up and drop-off zones, and a bus transit facility. The facility has solar panels on the roof and three building canopies, which include a 10,000+ square foot aluminum framing and glass canopy for the bus facility. The façade was installed by Modern Door & Equipment Sales, Inc., to successfully achieve the design vision for the project, which began in October 2020 and was completed in January 2024.

Key considerations and lessons from the project include value engineering and materials selection, addressing ventilation requirements, incorporating artistic components, and more. Successful parking structure projects require a holistic approach that embraces the expertise of architects, engineers, fabricators, contractors, and other key players.

The Monument Drive project showcases the aesthetic potential of custom-fabricated building faades and canopies, elevating the transit center’s visual appeal while complementing the surrounding environment.

Value Engineering and Materials Selection

Value engineering is vital to successful parking structure projects, optimizing cost, performance, and aesthetics. Collaborative efforts among architects, engineers, fabricators, and contractors enable the identification of cost-effective solutions without compromising quality. Strategic materials selection is crucial, considering factors such as structural integrity, sustainability, and aesthetics. From precast concrete to steel and advanced composites, each material offers unique benefits that must be carefully evaluated in the context of project requirements and budget constraints.

The Monument Drive project exemplifies this approach by incorporating a custom cladding exterior façade. Through collaborative efforts, an aluminum system with textured terracotta fluoropolymer finish coatings to emulate clay terracotta was introduced as a value-engineered option, reducing costs and installation time while maintaining architectural integrity. With the façade attached at each floor level and the need to allow for differential deflections, design and constructability concerns arose with the rigid nature of true terracotta. Aluminum offered several benefits, including the ability to preassemble the panels, providing greater quality control, and greatly reducing the material and installation labor costs. Another benefit of aluminum versus a clay façade was that it is a much lighter material—reducing structural loads on the building. In addition, although terracotta has appeal as a “green” material, aluminum offers the advantage of being post recyclable.

“Using the custom, terracotta-coated aluminum for the façade provided several benefits,” said Michael Schwartz, Project Designer at HGA. “We could achieve the design vision for the project with a much lighter, scalable, modular design. The cost savings alone for this solution was $2 million,” he said.

Planning for Ease of Maintenance

Proactively considering maintenance issues during the design phase enables the implementation of strategies to prolong the lifespan of parking structures and minimize long-term costs and annual maintenance.

The key to addressing efficient long-term maintenance for the Monument Drive Commuter Parking and Transit Center was using durable exterior coatings. The aluminum coatings for the project were provided by Linetec and used PPG Duranar® ٧٠٪ PVDF resin-based coating system with a texture additive. Architectural coatings with 70% PVDF resin that meet AAMA 2605 specifications exhibit outstanding resistance to color fade and change, chalking, gloss loss, humidity, salt spray, and chemicals, ensuring a long-lasting, durable finish. These performance attributes are key to high-traffic transit facilities seeking to maintain their desired appearance and a long lifecycle.

Dynamic Differential Deflection

Dynamic differential deflection, the movement of parking structures under load, poses challenges that demand collaborative solutions. Architect-fabricator collaboration and early design involvement are essential to ensuring the structural integrity and longevity of the façade. Architects can optimize structural performance while achieving their architectural vision by integrating the expertise of fabricators into the design process from the outset, such as on the Monument Drive project. To accommodate differential deflection between the parking structure floors, a custom sliding clip was designed to connect the façade while allowing these fluctuations. If a façade is rigid, over time, the façade will be pulled and displaced, causing maintenance, repair, and aesthetic issues.

Ventilation Requirements

Effective ventilation is critical to ensuring air quality and safety within parking structures. Collaborative efforts between mechanical engineers, architects, and facility managers are essential to designing ventilation systems that meet codes and regulatory requirements while optimizing energy efficiency. Open-air façade designs, like the Monument Drive project, can facilitate air quality and a degree of natural ventilation.

Artistic Opportunities

Parking structures offer unique opportunities for artistic expression, transforming utilitarian facilities into architectural landmarks. The Monument Drive project showcases the aesthetic potential of custom-fabricated building faades and canopies, elevating the transit center’s visual appeal while complementing the surrounding environment. HGA’s lighting designer selected lights to highlight the exterior aluminum tube cladding and cornice. By embracing innovative façade materials and various design elements, architects and fabricators can enhance the urban fabric with parking structures that create memorable user experiences.

Creative lighting highlights architectural elements of the parking structure and canopy.

Lighting Design and Sustainability

Lighting is an important design component; not only for aesthetics, but to control and manage vehicular headlight and other light emissions from the building to neighboring areas. Coordination of lighting design for safety is another critical aspect, requiring collaboration among lighting designers, architects, and electrical engineers to ensure adequate illumination for security and wayfinding while minimizing light pollution. John Kemper, Sr. Associate for HGA, points to the unique design of the lit single-run stair tower and exterior lighting on the Monument Drive project. “The glazing and lighting of the façade celebrates the structural quality and is a statement advocating Fairfax County’s commitment to community and sustainability,” commented Kemper.

Photo: Kate Wichlinski

Energy efficiency and sustainability are also important considerations. For Monument Drive, integrating solar panels on the roof and building canopies reduces energy consumption and environmental impact while enhancing the facility’s functionality. For example, the roof level has PV panels that cover approximately 21,650 square feet and a green roof that covers approximately 6,600 square feet. The project was designed to receive Parksmart certification (LEED equivalent for parking structures) using local/regional materials and labor to help achieve this goal.

Safety Considerations

Safety and suicide prevention is an increasingly important consideration in parking structure design, necessitating collaboration between architects and safety experts. A recent IPMI survey found 51% of all parking structures have experienced a suicide attempt. Thoughtful design features like barriers and surveillance systems can enhance safety without compromising aesthetics. The Monument Drive project façade incorporates innovative solutions to enhance safety, such as carefully planned spacing and layout.

Speed and Efficiency of Façade Construction

The speed and efficiency of façade construction are crucial to project timelines and budgets, underscoring the importance of collaboration between architects, contractors, fabricators, and façade specialists. Modular façade systems and prefabricated components offer opportunities for streamlined installation and reduced construction time. Seamless coordination between design and fabrication teams is essential to minimize delays and maximize project timelines. Jerry Duggan, Operation Manager at Modern Door, spoke about the ease and labor-efficient installation of prefabricated façade panels. “The most satisfying aspect of the Monument Drive project was seeing it come together as drawn–that’s not always the case,” said Duggan.

Not for the Birds and the Bees

Another consideration in façade design for open-air parking structures is discouraging insect and bird nesting. Effective solutions include façades with no open-ended tubes and creating designs restricting the location and material sizes that birds prefer. During the design phase, local aviary resources can be contacted to understand the local species of birds and determine the height and width of nesting appeal for local species and design to prevent bird and insect infestation.

Collaboration Early-On

Effective collaboration between architects, fabricators, and contractors is essential for realizing the design vision of parking structures. The Monument Drive project underscores the importance of early design involvement and close collaboration throughout the construction process. By integrating fabricators into the design process from inception, architects can leverage their expertise to optimize structural performance, streamline installation, and enhance overall project efficiency.

Conclusion

The Monument Drive Commuter Parking Garage and Transit Center is a compelling case study in collaborative design and construction practices for parking structures. By embracing value engineering, materials selection, early design involvement, and innovative façade solutions, architects and fabricators can create parking facilities that meet functional requirements, enrich the urban landscape, and enhance the quality of life for communities. As we look to the future of parking structure design, collaboration will remain central to achieving sustainable, resilient, and aesthetically pleasing solutions that stand the test of time. ◆

February 3rd, 2022, through February 2nd, 20232
EV-1 EV-2 EV-3 EV-4 Total Description
Odometer Sum (mi) 14,701 3,854 14,608 12,954 46,117 Sum of odometer
Charging Port Energy (kWh) 40,886 14,547 40,009 39,834 135,276 Charging energy measured at the Combined Charging System (Combined Charging System) port
Net Charging Energy (kWh) 34,832 11,627 34,482 32,726 113,667 Charging energy measured at the batteries
Cumulative Energy Consumption (kWh/mi) 2.37 3.01 2.37 2.53 2.47 Cumulative energy consumption rate when not plugged into a CCS port
Cumulative MPGe 15.7 12.4 15.8 14.8 15.1 Cumulative B20 diesel equivalent fuel economy when not plugged into a CCS port based on 37.037 kWh per diesel gallon

*EV2 was out of service for repairs due to an accident in February 2022

Kevin Smith, RA, is the President of EXTECH/Exterior Technologies.

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