ARB Structures – The MET Costa Mesa Parking Structure

ARB pic copySite restrictions forced ARB Structures to retrofit an existing office campus garage for vertical expansion.

By Tim O'Connor

Today's office building developers like to tout their design and lifestyle amenities: how much of the facade is made from glass, what restaurants are nearby, how many treadmills the workout room has and what sustainable materials were used in construction. But for many companies, parking availability is every bit as important as those more marketable features.

A good parking spot is not only a convenience; it's a status symbol – and a revenue generator. High-end office buildings in Orange County, Calif., can charge up to $1,200 a month for a reserved ground-level covered parking space near the entrance. Demand and revenue potential has office developments thinking about how to maximize their parking availability, leading to opportunities for dedicated parking structure builders such as California's ARB Structures. 

The company's latest project, the parking garage at The MET Costa Mesa office development, has put its 21 years of industry experience and knowledge to the test. The project is a complete seismic retrofit of an existing two-level parking deck that enabled an "over-build" to add two additional levels of parking. The vertical expansion of the parking structure will increase the garage's total number of parking space from 434 to 700 so that it can better serve the three surrounding office buildings and a 24/7 fitness center. "This is an effort on their behalf to provide parking so they can fully lease the office buildings," ARB Project Executive David Grant says.

Vertical Decision

Most parking garage expansion projects are adjacent to vacant land that can be built on to increase parking capacity. However, the existing garage at The MET is strategically abutted by two of the office buildings, the fitness center and I-405. The only way to build out the garage was to go up. "The main reason for going vertical was because there wasn?t space or additional adjacent land to do a horizontal expansion," Project Executive Craig Morrison says. ARB box

Demolishing the garage and building a larger structure from scratch was another option, but ARB determined it could save the client, McCarthy Cook & Co., more than $1 million by retrofitting the existing building. "We've never expanded a garage in this fashion exactly," Grant adds. "We've added onto existing structures, but it was always a horizontal addition to the side of the garage." 

ARB Structures was a natural choice for the project because it has a longstanding relationship with McCarthy Cook & Co. The company built the original parking deck at The MET in 2001 and completed another project for the developer in 2014 in San Diego.

Supporting the weight of the additional two levels meant numerous modifications and strengthening of the existing structure. ARB worked with International Parking Design, an architectural firm, and Culp and Tanner, a structural engineer, who both specialize in parking garages, to create a constructible design that fit the visual style of the office campus. "We do a lot of work with them," Grant says. "There was initial upfront design concept meetings [to determine] how we go about this, how do we make this work, how do we 'punch' through the existing structure and how do we handle the additional the additional exiting including adding an elevator."

Several steps were taken to increase the existing parking structure's strength. Thirty columns were added to the interior of the garage and another 30 to the exterior to add support and create a new facade. ARB further strengthened the structure by wrapping beams and columns in the existing structure with carbon fiber, bringing it up to current building code requirements. ARB's own in-house crews completed all of the structural concrete work involved in the retrofit.

Finally, ARB used a low-profile rig to get under the existing parking deck and drill and install 212 micropiles, 10-inch diameter rods that underpin the foundation and provide structural support. "In this situation we had to put in micropiles because you can't get a normal pile rig under the existing deck," Grant says.

Construction began in February and is on pace to be finished by mid-December. The final weeks of work will see the installation of an elevator, stairwell, plasterwork, painting and a roof canopy for covered parking on the top deck. Most of the structural work is now completed, including the exterior ramp that will take cars to the second level and the interior ramps to the third and fourth levels.

The vertical nature of the expansion posed a number of challenges for the project, which is why ARB erected the over-build with further expansion in mind. "We have designed this structure for [the owner] to be able to add an additional level at a future time as well," Grant says. In lieu of a fifth level, the garage will also incorporate a 30-by-18 foot billboard that will advertise to passers-by on I-405.

Lessons Learned

The MET parking garage was the first vertical parking structure expansion ARB has undertaken. As such, it offered many lessons that the company will carry forward to future projects. Logistics is a challenge on any tight construction site, but even more so when active buildings surround the project. With the parking garage out of commission, McCarthy Cook & Co. maximized its remaining surface parking and utilized parking shuttles to help transport tenants due to increased distances from the office buildings.

On the construction side, ARB developed a logistics plan that juggled the needs of the office tenants and the peak hours at the fitness center with subcontractor operations. A firelane that is closed to regular traffic was used to coordinate material deliveries and concrete pourers. "Traffic control was instrumental in getting deliveries safely to the site," Grant says.

ARB?s success on The MET parking garage has already earned it an opportunity to do another vertical parking lot expansion. Morrison says that project, which is set to begin next year, will have a lot of the same conditions, but ARB's experience promises to make the entire process go more smoothly. "There were a lot of lessons learned in regards to keeping up with the daily cleanup, the wastewater, the soil, the excess concrete," Morrison explains. "To create a safe environment and productive work place, you need to keep up with the cleanup."

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