A parking garage in the downtown core of a big city may seem like an odd place to get people thinking about the health of the planet, but that is exactly what HOK and Friedman Properties have done in downtown Chicago, with some help from Autodesk® 3ds Max® Design and AutoCAD® Architecture software.
From the moment you see the structure, it is obvious that the 11-story Greenway Self-Park garage is not your average parking space. For one thing, the southwest corner is dominated by a dramatic kinetic sculpture that runs almost the entire height of the building. Look closer, however, and you discover that the “sculpture” is in fact a collection of vertically stacked wind turbines capable of turning the legendary gales of the Windy City into pure energy.
The turbines are capable of generating enough kilowatts to power the exterior lighting. The garage also includes a naturally ventilating glass exterior wall, plug-in stations for electric cars, spaces for carpooling services, bike parking, showers to encourage bike commuting, a cistern to collect rainwater, earth-friendly and sustainable lifestyle education themes for each of the 11 floors, a green roof to be completed next year and, yes, space for 750 cars.
“HOK is focused on doing environmentally conscientious design and building,” says Todd Halamka, director of design at HOK’s Chicago office. “We are all about how we can give back to our communities – whether urban, suburban, or rural – in which we work, and to contribute in a way that makes sound, sustainable sense.”
It would be difficult to imagine another parking garage like Greenway Self-Park. Usually considered a necessary evil in dense urban environments, parking garages have traditionally been eyesores on city skylines. False fronts were often employed to make the structures look more like the office buildings surrounding them, but such aesthetic considerations came with a cost.
“These closed skin buildings with false facades and punched windows require a mechanical ventilation system running 24 hours a day, 365 days a year that not only has first cost, but annual cost ramifications,” explains Halamka. “They essentially need to flush clean air through the structure. “In the City of Chicago, if your garage is more than 20 percent open as a naturally ventilated structure on every floor, there is no need for that mechanical ventilation system. Autodesk software helped us to accurately calculate and confirm that 20 percent or more of every floor was open. That saved the client several hundred thousand dollars of first cost right off the bat.”
Using Autodesk 3ds Max Design software for visualizations and AutoCAD Architecture software for conceptual designs and computation of open and closed air space, Halamka and his team began to develop an open-air garage that would also be environmentally friendly and beautiful to look at.
“We began to think about a facade strategy that would use overlays of cast u-shaped glass panels to both visually layer yet reveal the structure itself,” says Halamka. “With help from Autodesk 3ds Max Design and AutoCAD Architecture, we took the double-helical structure of the parking garage, with its slanted floors, and layered the cast glass wall in ways that provide a variety of transparencies and opacities that change with the time of day. When sunlight hits the glass obliquely or head-on, the façade becomes more transparent or translucent, and when viewing outward from within, provides a whole series of framed views of the city.” And, of course, it provides enough natural ventilation to the building to make expensive ventilation systems unnecessary.
Halamka continues: “We used Autodesk 3ds Max Design to perform quick, compelling visualizations of the garage. Combining our visualizations with actual site photography, we were able to create daytime and nighttime views of the garage in its eventual context. They were exceptionally effective in communicating our ideas to the client. Autodesk software helped us to calculate the level of open ventilation we needed to ensure that we met those criteria. It was a vital contribution to the aesthetic that is now in place.”
The Greenway Self-Park building recently received the Award of Merit-Architectural Design at Midwest Construction’s 2010 “Best Of” awards. Since the completion of Greenway Self-Park, HOK has also integrated Autodesk Building Information Modeling (BIM) tools into their operations, using the full Autodesk® Revit® software family of products.