The new six-level parking structure at the ChristianaCare in Wilmington, Del., is not a typical garage. In addition to housing more than 800 cars, the structure has a separate medical office building nestled within its confines.
The double-height first level of the parking structure creates a bright and airy entrance and provides an elevated space to accommodate the medical office building. The design for the structure focuses not just on vehicle storage but also emphasizes the “people” aspect of the facility (the needs, comfort, and experiences of end users). The generous floor-to-floor height allows daylight to penetrate deep into the structure. A rounded arch designates the ingress/egress to the garage and adds architectural interest to the facade.
The urban campus of ChristianaCare has undergone extensive additions and renovations in recent years to expand and modernize many of its key clinical departments. To accompany the campus upgrades, additional parking was needed. The new garage complements the architectural design and brick facade of the hospital. Precast concrete panels incorporate reveals and a light-sandblasted finish to contrast with the thin brick.
“From the beginning, ChristianaCare was dedicated to using a precast concrete structural system with thin brick to match the recently completed adjacent hospital tower expansion project,” recalls Damian Larkin, PE, LEED AP, Walker Consultants.
One of the hospital’s long-term goals is to ensure that the community have convenient access to high-quality care. The new 860-space parking structure was built adjacent to the hospital, which remained open and fully functioning during construction. Contracts for the demolition of the existing parking garage and site preparation were awarded early to avoid any delays. The hospital wanted to minimize disruption and open the garage as quickly as possible. With the elimination of the old garage, parking was at a premium.
The COVID-19 pandemic placed additional strain on the hospital, and so it was critical to construct the parking structure as quickly as possible. To accelerate the schedule, the precast concrete components were fabricated concurrently with site work. Off-site fabrication also meant that fewer trades were driving each day to the downtown location and requiring places to park.
Medical Office Building
ChristianaCare selected a total precast concrete system because it offered a cost-competitive superstructure, speed of erection, and the ability to coordinate construction of the parking structure with that of the steel-framed medical office building within the garage’s footprint. With precast concrete’s front-loaded design, many of key project decisions were made early. That enabled the project team to develop how to encapsulate the medical office facility as a building within a building. Visitors and patients with impaired mobility benefited from the garage’s “flat-plate” design.
The medical office building structure in the middle of the garage presented challenges to the project team, particularly with regard to the construction sequencing. The frame for the nested office structure was built before erection of the precast concrete parking structure, which meant that the team erecting the parking structure had restricted access to interior spaces. In addition, the City of Wilmington wanted to minimize the need for road closures around the active medical center. City officials enforced limited access around the worksite, so the team had move construction equipment efficiently in and around city streets. Exacting coordination was required to transport more than 700 loads of precast concrete components to the jobsite on a just-in-time basis.
The result is a functional, durable structure for ChristianaCare that meets the program requirements for increased visitor parking, the addition of the medical office building structure, and aesthetics that mesh with the medical campus.