Page 1




G A R A G E An architecture firm partnered with IPI in a virtual-reality experiment to see what parking might look like decades from now. The results were mind-blowing.



By Juan Ramos, LEED AP BD+C


ESIGNING PARKING STRUCTURES is unique in the sense that each design has to respond to unique and constantly changing parameters. The

dimensions of cars evolve over time, and we are seeing a paradigm shift in the ways we interact with our vehicles. Do we drive them or do they drive us? Do we drop them off or will they drop us off? Will cars be owned mostly by individuals or will we see fleets run by corporations? All of these questions will have major effects on how we approach the design of parking structures. With few exceptions, human proportions have generally stayed the same. Yes, there have been huge advances in ergonomics that have affected how we interact with objects and spaces, but the kinds of conversations we are now having in the parking industry go well beyond that. We need to reevaluate the questions we ask ourselves when starting a project, because we are designing buildings that should last for 50 years: ● How is the user approaching the site? At some point, will it just be at street level? ● What is the best structural bay configuration? ● What are the optimal stall width, drive aisle dimension, turning radius, height clearance, etc.? The topic of driverless cars affects every one of these decisions. Especially right now, we are designing for what we know (or think we know). At the same time, we want our clients to have buildings that can respond to what the future might bring. As an industry, we must be ready to adapt to change while also staying calm and not making brash decisions like breaking ground on that parking structure for the flying car—at least not just yet (we’re waiting, science!). We must also make sure we have a seat at the table; we need to propose and not just react. DCM Architecture and Engineering was honored with the opportunity to collaborate alongside IPI to envision one possible version of what the garage of the future could be. We shared it with some of you via virtual reality at the 2017 IPI Conference & Expo and really enjoyed the conversations we had. It was obviously a topic that’s been on everyone’s mind, and it will be exciting to see the different solutions proposed to our industry’s common challenges!



Designing the Garage Before launching our garage of the future project, we had to decide whether to approach this as an exercise in retrofitting existing garages. We quickly realized there are already several great examples of that. That conversation started a long time ago. So we started with a clean slate in imagining what a new garage could be if it were built 30 years from now. IPI’s Planning, Design, and Construction Committee came up with an initial list of items they considered crucial to include, and after a few joint brainstorming sessions, we started working on a concept. What started out as imagining a futuristic parking structure turned into conceptualizing a new construction system. The reason for this was simple: Our opinion (and we know we’re not alone in this) is that this building of the future had to be flexible and scalable. The first step was finding the common denominators. What were the dimensions that were going to work for us if we were Fig. 1 designing a modular space? We settled on a 10-foot cube. This became our basic building block (Fig. 1). By arranging cubes in a grid, we created larger modules that would be joined by connector pieces. These pieces allowed us to attach facade panels and created a one-foot space between each module, which would

Fig. 3

a mag-lev track that would run along the facade until it reached another set of rails that would bring a vehicle down to the street. Could we have solved this with an internal lift? Yes. Would it have made for an interesting 3-D virtual experience? Not so much. It also gave us the opportunity to explore shape memory materials (SMMs) for our facade panels. These are polymers or alloys that can be deformed but will regain their original shape when exposed to the appropriate stimuli.1 These kinetic facades can be used to control daylighting or create openings for drones to deliver packages, retrieve mail or garbage, or even parade your car around the side of the building.

Introducing Flexibility This same module functioned very well for a vertical transportation system, housing two elevator shafts and a switch-back stair (Fig. 4).

Fig. 2

allow us to run all of our utilities (Fig. 2). With that, a larger 20-foot by 30-foot by 22-foot module was established, and we were able to fit it out by modifying the internal components (Fig. 3). These dimensions worked well for a puzzle-lift style system. For the IPI presentation, we decided to have it work on



Fig. 4

Fig. 5b

Fig. 5a

The next step was fitting a residential and office component, which functions very well in a 30-foot deep module with an optional 8-foot by 10-foot corridor block so we could double-load the building (Fig. 5a, 5b). By adding an intermediate beam in the 10-foot cube we were able to create 15-foot retail spaces with mechanical space. Other small adjustments to the modular grid could allow for any variety of program space. For example, hydroponic vertical farms or storage modules could be used by tenants (Fig. 6a, 6b, 6c). The point of this was that by creating a flexible space, we could change the One thing to keep in interior spaces to respond to the changing needs of the mind when designing building. One could start something for the with a mixed-use park- future is that if you ing-retail configuration and change the ratios as need- can already explain ed. If demand for parking exactly how it will grew, the owner could add work, you’re not more bays. Eventually, in a city with increasing density thinking big enough. and a decreased demand for parking, these could be changed to office and residential spaces. In our final rendering, we showed a parking module adjacent to a service area. The idea was that much like in the first parking garages, cars could be worked on while parked. Offices for the service shops could be located in the next bay. This would work whether the cars were owned by individuals or were leased by a driverless car-share company. Here we had a construction system that allowed owners to add levels as needed or swap them from parking to mixed-use and vice versa. It could be used as a temporary construction system for disaster relief or for events such as the World Cup or the Olympics. Flexibility is key. We know trying to describe what anything might be like in 30 years is like shooting darts in the dark, and only time will tell. At several points throughout our process, we thought we were being clever with an

Fig. 6a

Fig. 6b

Fig. 6c



Fig. 7 original futuristic idea, but it turned out that someone, somewhere was already working on either something similar or working on the building blocks that could be used to actually make our idea happen. Frustrating as it is to find out that someone beat you to an idea, for us it was promising to know that we could one day actually see it realized! One thing to keep in mind when designing something for the future is that if you can already explain exactly how it will work, you’re not thinking big enough.

The System

JUAN RAMOS, LEED AP BD+C, is project liaison with DCM Architecture and Engineering. He can be reached at


The most exciting part for us was envisioning how this thing could come together as a system and how it could interact with its surroundings. We didn’t want it to be just a net-zero building—we figured it could be net positive, taking waste and producing something useful! Fig. 7 shows some of the features that we could see in the garage. At some point it can be mixed-use, but the idea is the same. Beginning with harvesting wind and solar (all exterior surfaces could be photovoltaic), rain water is collected and used in the building. Gray water is treated, made potable, and then reused in building or the surplus is sold back to the grid, much like we do now with electricity. I can see my future grandchildren making fun of me for living in a time when we used to simply flush water down the drain. Wastewater along with any organic waste will be sent to a composter/digester within the building. We could also accept recyclable and organic waste from adjacent buildings to process on-site. Some of the by-products of decomposition are: ● Energy in the form of heat that will be used to heat water or air with a heat transfer system. ● Methane that can be used as a biogas in the building,


sold to the grid, or used in a gas generator to charge electric vehicles parked in the garage. ● Nitrogen that can be used as a fertilizer in the hydroponic farms. ● Carbon that can also be used in the farms but more importantly, when processed with methane can be turned into graphene. This is one of the techniques that is being developed to mass produce graphene, which is a super conductor that’s extremely light and 10 times stronger than steel.2 ● Ethylene gas, which is another byproduct of decomposition3 and has been successfully used to produce graphene.4 ● Finally, the recyclable waste, along with the graphene could be processed onsite into filaments or powders for 3-D printers. Any component you would need—from a cellphone cover to a facade panel—could be printed on site, using your own waste as your source material. That’s an exciting future! For more, visit parking. org/vr.


W. M. Huang, Z. Ding, C. C. Wang, J. Wei, Y. Zhao, and H. Purnawali. “Shape Memory Materials.” (n.d.): n. pag. Shape Memory Materials - ScienceDirect. Web. 31 Aug. 2017. 2 David L. Chandler | MIT News Office. “Researchers Design One of the Strongest, Lightest Materials Known.” MIT News. N.p., 06 Jan. 2017. Web. 01 Sept. 2017. 3 Ward, T., E. M. Turner, and D. J. Osborne. “Evidence for the Production of Ethylene by the Mycelium of Agaricus Bisporus and Its Relationship to Sporocarp Development.” Journal of General Microbiology 104.1 (1978): 23-30. Web. 4 Wang, Bo, Michael König, Catherine J. Bromley, Bokwon Yoon, Michael-John Treanor, José A. Garrido Torres, Marco Caffio, Federico Grillo, Herbert Früchtl, Neville V. Richardson, Friedrich Esch, Ueli Heiz, Uzi Landman, and Renald Schaub. “Ethene to Graphene: Surface Catalyzed Chemical Pathways, Intermediates, and Assembly.” The Journal of Physical Chemistry C 121.17 (2017): 9413-423. Web 1

Profile for International Parking & Mobility Institute

Designing the Future Garage  

Designing the Future Garage