Limited space, a sloped project site, and a very tight schedule were just a few of the challenges that designers faced when building the new parking structure for the University of Mississippi. The seven-story garage sits in the heart of a campus built in the 19th century, so the design had to be practical and durable without overwhelming the existing architectural fabric.
The designers knew that an all-precast-concrete solution would help them address all of these issues. “An all-precast-concrete design simplified construction, reduced costs, and compressed the schedule versus options with traditional masonry or other applied facade material,” says Rob McConnell, vice president of parking solutions for Wantman Group, Inc. It also helped the design team replicate the local architectural feel with a more modern and durable solution.
With an area of 464,000 ft2, the parking structure is significantly larger than the surrounding student housing, says Jim Eley of Eley Guild Hardy Architects. Therefore, the design “required careful detailing to blend in with adjacent buildings.”
To lessen the structure’s bulk while still delivering enough parking spaces to meet demand, the designers built the garage into the side of a 30-ft-high hill, which visually reduced the structure’s height to just four levels on one side. The garage is built on a deep foundation of cast-in-place piles and pile caps that support the earth-retaining walls as well as the precast concrete superstructure. The precast concrete detailing permitted superstructure erection to proceed with a nominal 2-in. gap between the precast concrete and the adjacent walls in place. “Having the earth retention separated from the superstructure allowed the precast concrete connections to be standard, economical anchor bolts and bars/grout splice sleeves,” says Clay Hudson of Gate Precast Company.
The designers employed long-span, prestressed concrete double tees; located shear walls to the exterior plane; and provided large openings in both the shear walls and light walls to maximize openness and visibility, while providing natural light and ventilation. “Despite the presence of solid retaining walls at the lowest levels, openness was maintained at all levels,” Eley says.
To emulate the architectural stone found elsewhere on campus, the designers chose thin-set brick and integrally colored concrete panels for the facade, with precast concrete brick column covers and spandrels. Aesthetically, the new structure “fits in very well with many of the older buildings that have a long history on the University of Mississippi campus,” Hudson says.
The all-precast-concrete design also helped the project team meet the tight construction schedule. The precast concrete structure was erected in just 3½ months and completed before students arrived for the new school year.
The resulting structure provides much needed parking on the busy college campus, McConnell says. “Bottom line: Precast concrete allowed for an economical, efficient, functional, and aesthetically pleasing building.”