Lehigh University Alumni Parking Garage
Architectural Precast Elements:
A design-build approach that reused steel forms from an award-winning project resulted in an elegant new university parking garage in four to six months less time than typical construction. The form design was previously recognized by PCI in an award for best parking garage. This new garage features 10- by 30-foot precast concrete elements that incorporate slender precast concrete columns and spandrel beams. The structural design eliminated the tall, heavy spandrels traditionally associated with parking structures, and replaced them with an open, lightweight concrete latticework that provides both exciting form and efficient function. The panels' slender columns correspond individually to the 7’-6” span of the 15-foot-wide structural double tee stems. And, in addition to providing lots of light and an open, airy feel, the exterior lattice system blocks headlights too.
The five-level, 104,000 square foot parking facility set on a steeply sloping hillside houses 315 spaces for university faculty, and is dramatic infill for the campus’ stone alumni center by integrating both heavy stone elements and light concrete and steel elements in an inviting and open design The slender precast columns and spandrels are visible on the east and west elevations, complement the solid appearance of the alumni memorial hall tower’s traditional stone facade with a dynamic and contrasting visual look that is open and modern. On the south elevation is a hill that rises sharply; a precast bridge for foot and vehicle traffic links the south garage generic stair and driving access to the campus.
The north elevation is the focal point of the project, and overlooks a new landscaped courtyard with a fountain. A great deal of thought went into the design of this space, which comprises the entry sequence and provides a much-needed venue for university events. The entry features a turnaround for cars and buses; access to the north elevation of the garage is at ground level. A solid precast wall provides the backdrop for a dramatic glass enclosed stair that spans the entire elevation with no switchbacks. The glass is fritted, to reduce reflectivity and create a translucence permitting a lantern-like glow at night. The north elevation is surrounded with a U-shaped stone wall that’s sympathetic to the alumni hall.
The columns and spandrels were finished in architectural grey with a darker limestone aggregate to complement the alumni center stone. Architectural grey components were given a textured sandblast finish for a delicate visual effect.
Parking in the garage is two-directional with 90-degree front-in spaces. In addition to reducing the total time required to bring the project to completion, the design-build approach allowed for value engineering of the design to meet larger headroom clearance requirements than were provided for with the original forms. Long-span girders were reduced in depth to accommodate minimum headroom clearance requirements for larger vehicles.
Precast concrete provided quality control, speed of construction, low maintenance and a high level of design and aesthetics. Completed precast pieces were delivered to the site ready for installation, which required approximately half the time needed for a comparable cast-in-place structure. Precast achieved maximum transparency and reduced mass.