New York’s Overlooked Legend: The Parking Garage

November 12, 2017

Parking garages have long been the ‘Rodney Dangerfield’ of architecture, getting little or no respect. They can also be threatening and ominous spaces, as seen in many popular films and even parodied in the hit nineties sitcom Seinfeld, in which an entire episode is devoted to finding Jerry’s car in a parking garage with poor signage.

One of the reasons for this “dark aura” this may be found in the Parking Garage’s origin story: Whether constructed below or above ground, parking garages are generally built to be as efficient, inexpensive and unobtrusive as possible. Generally grey and somewhat dingy, many are poorly lit, poorly ventilated and riddled with cracks and crevices, creating hazards and unhealthy environments within.

Updating a garage may seem a mundane task, but it’s critically important to maintain its functionality in order to preserve its value-add to the property.

At 211 West 56th Street, after working on the building’s façade restoration, roof replacement, co-gen installation, electrical upgrade and window replacement, the HLZAE architecture and engineering teams set out to repair the four-level parking garage.

We learned that existing plans did not match the ‘as built’ conditions of this garage originally built nearly forty years ago. Therefore, our first step was to act as investigators: we needed to turn to the garage decks, walls, ceilings and HVAC infrastructure to ascertain exactly how the systems were configured.

Once we had a full understanding of the garage’s structure and systems, HLZAE repaired concrete and installed a new waterproofing system on three levels and a sealer on the lowest level to mitigate concrete deterioration. Our mechanical engineering team improved the garage ventilation; new exhaust ducts were installed for enhanced ventilation and an additional ventilation system was employed within the garage. The entire steam system (which was not insulated before) was mapped, labeled and insulated requiring a significant investigation tracing the supply and return lines of the system. New heating fans and a heat trace system were installed along with exposed piping, general exhaust and venting. Taking into account the plaza on top of the garage, our plumbing engineers designed the extension of the water supply for irrigation to the plaza. Extra drains were added, unit heaters were replaced, as well as float and trap valves. HLZAE prepared electrical lighting and power plans for a new LED lighting upgrade throughout each level of the garage, ensuring safer passage, by foot and by car, within.

By addressing the above concerns, this garage’s functionality, safety and visibility were markedly improved.

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