The new six-story, 235-spot Faena Park parking structure in Miami looks more like a giant white beehive than a parking garage. The façade is covered in thousands of slightly oblong holes that provide ventilation within an innovative eye-catching design.
“Figuring out how to make those holes was the hardest part of this project,” says Bryant Luke, of Gate Precast, the precaster for the project. The designer wanted all of the holes to look perfectly round, but they also had to cross through the panel at an angle to accommodate airflow and prevent glare from cars onto nearby buildings, making them elliptical as they pass through the panel, he explains. “We had to come up with a way to make those ellipses look like circles from the ground.”
The holes on the leaning panels also had to look the same as those on perpendicular panels, which required a completely different size and angle based on the tilt of the panels.
To solve the problem, Gate created the panels with holes cut at a 45 degree angle. To do that they began with a solid panel mold then inserted custom-made rubber plugs to create the holes in the cast. “Arriving at a plug strong enough to hold its shape but slick enough to release from the mold was challenging,” he says. “It was imperative that all embeds lined up just right because there couldn’t be a remedial where there was a hole.”
Each “odd” hole or recess required its own unique plug, which had to be detailed and then made out of rubber. Gate worked with a third-party company to machine a positive of the high-density, hard-coated foam to create negative rubber molds, then used those molds to create the final positive rubber plugs. In total, they created 77 unique plug variations.
The hollow plugs were filled with 1.5 lb foam to lessen the cost of the plugs; then light adhesive and caulking secured them in the mold and prevent concrete spillage into the void. “Once we had the plugs figured out, we were able to create thousands of holes in a very short amount of time,” Luke says.
Another innovative use of precast concrete on this project is seen at the roof. The design team wanted a cavity between the precast concrete and roofing system in order to make the roofing accessible, so the precast panels sit on top of specially designed pedestals, which allow them to be removed easily to access mechanical systems and helped with waterproofing.
“The architect could not have achieved this design with any material other than precast,” Luke says. “This uniformity would have been impossible to replicate through manual power tools.”