Penn State East Parking Garage
Blending Parking Seamlessly in a Campus Environment
If you have ever been to Happy Valley for a Penn State football game, you know gridlock. The town and surrounding roads can be jammed with fans for hours before, during and after the game. So, when Pennsylvania State University needed a new six-level, $14 million parking garage for a campus expansion, both aesthetics and traffic management were high on the list of priorities. And, interestingly, so was a chiller plant.
The parking structure was part of a campus expansion that consolidated a 26-acre surface parking lot and expanded university facilities including dormitories, classroom and research buildings. The university had decided before the expansion began to finish all the new buildings in full brick for a consistent aesthetic. Though it could have been finished with a thin brick façade, the garage required the same full brick field finish.
With concrete window opening surrounds in an architectural buff color, the parking deck is a good neighbor that blends seamlessly into the fabric of nearby dorm and classroom facilities. The school required the exterior to be 50% open, so spandrel heights were lowered. To meet car-stopping requirements, and for a fresh aesthetic, decorative, galvanized steel car guards were added to the inside and are visible from the outside just over the spandrel sills, recessed by 10” from the face of the spandrel.
Especially noteworthy is the precast concrete screening around the first floor of the building. Designed to increase security while meeting the 50% open requirement, the decorative precast grid allows air to move through the garage so that supplemental ventilation was not required. Fans, students and others enter the new garage through a one-directional, double-laned ingress point on the south side. One-way traffic is as segregated as possible, with crossovers only at the two end bays.
Inside, the traffic pattern is designed to permit 70-degree parking, which required a variance from the PA state government. The design enables up to four more cars to park on each tier than conventional schematic layouts, accommodating more cars and increasing revenue generation opportunity. The garage includes two elevator/stair towers, and a third stair in the southeast corner for egress.
A centrally-located double-laned double helix exits to the north to improve the flow of cars and help limit back ups as folks head for home. An unusual feature of the garage is the chiller plant built into the footprint of the massive 240’ x 260’ garage. Located at the back side of the building, the plant serves the new office and dormitories in the expansion. A 12” thick precast firewall protects the garage environment from the adjoining chiller plant.
Erected in four months
Demonstrating a key advantage of precast, this major university garage project was erected in only four months during inclement winter weather that included several snow storms and extremely low-temperature days. The project was built to the school’s requirements on time, and on budget.