The new seven-story parking structure at the University of Alabama looks more like a state-of-the-art library than a place to park your car. The neoclassical architecture and brick-and-limestone design were specifically chosen to mimic the century-old buildings that cover the university’s campus, and to give the structure a feeling of strength and permanence.
“The University of Alabama prides itself on the architectural beauty and history of its largely neoclassical campus,” says Neil King, president and chief operating officer of Evan Terry Associates.
From the outset, designers wanted the building to blend with that neoclassical style but knew it wouldn’t be easy. King notes that this architectural style features many ornate elements, including balustrades, cornices, parapets, and entablatures, which require strict adherence to proportion and scale. In the past, these architectural elements were hand-carved from limestone and similar materials, but that approach would be unaffordable in today’s world.
“To that end, we were able to take advantage of the precision, consistency, and economy of precast to exactly replicate classical details rendered to proper classical proportions,” King says. Choosing precast concrete allowed them to achieve the strict design goals with a cost-effective, extremely durable, and low-maintenance product.
The structural frame of the parking structure is cast-in-place concrete. That frame was then hung with precast concrete panels to form the highly detailed building envelope. The precast concrete producer used thin-brick veneer to exactly replicate the brick appearance on the upper floors, and sandblasted panels with limestone accents on the lower levels.
Each mold was designed to replicate the classical details, while adhering to proper classical proportions. Both the brick wall panel molds and sandblasted panel molds included multiple window spacings, which required additional molds and modifications.
Along with meeting the design goals, using precast concrete helped the project team meet the strict delivery schedule, which was built around the school’s academic calendar.
“The inherent efficiency and rapid installation of precast concrete was vital in helping us to meet, or even exceed, the university’s expectations,” King says.
The precast concrete erection process was completed in four months, ending in July before the start of the school year. It marks the completion of phase one of this multiphase project to provide on-campus living space, food service, and parking for university students, King says. “The owner loved the rapid and timely completion of the project, and how well this new parking deck blends seamlessly with the university’s design aesthetic.”