Dane County Regional Boosts Parking Capacity & Environmental Consciousness

Jim Faber
Published in: 

It's hard to think of parking construction as "green," but careful planning made it happen at Dane County Regional Airport in Madison, WI. Primary components of the project even achieved Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver Certification by the U.S. Green Building Council.

Earlier this summer, the airport opened its new parking ramp, exit plaza and parking administration building, a combined $30 million project that broke ground in October 2007.

LEED certification for the exit plaza and parking administration building are especially meaningful in a community like Madison that's known nationwide for its focus on natural recreation and environmental protection, explains Sharyn Wisniewski, director of communications for the airport. But it wasn't easy.

"Meeting LEED requirements for this project was particularly impressive," says Jennifer

Facts & Figures

Project: Parking Ramp, Exit Plaza & Parking Administration Building

Location: Dane County Regional Airport Madison, WI

Ramp: 3 stories, 1,200 spaces

Exit Plaza: 2,000 sq. ft., 6 gates

Administration Building: 3,000 sq. ft.

Cost: $30 million

Timeline: About 1 1/2 years

Consultant: GRAEF

Architect: Eppstein Uhen Architects

General Contractor: J.H. Findorff & Sons

Landscaper: Ken Saike Landscaping

The Need: Revamp parking in a sustainable, environmentally sensitive manner

Holpfer, the sustainability specialist with Eppstein Uhen Architects. "The exit plaza is on the airport's property versus in an urban area and it has a lot of parking for obvious reasons, so sustainable design opportunities for the site itself were limited."

That meant the firms working on the project had to think outside the box.

"Many of the precedent buildings used to illustrate LEED strategies were not applicable," explains Eppstein Uhen principal Jonathan Parker. "So we had the opportunity to be innovative and explore applications of sustainable design principles in unique ways."

Parker divides the project's sustainable design features into two categories.

Elements that didn't add cost include:

• Water-efficient, native landscaping

• Exterior light fixtures that reduce light pollution

• HVAC equipment without harmful refrigeration materials

• Recycling of construction waste

• Regionally harvested or fabricated materials; materials with recycled content

• Using daylight to light most of the occupied building space

Green efforts that cost more initially but promise savings over time include:

• White roofing material reduce heat load on the building

• Insulation significantly above code minimums to decrease energy usage

• Providing user control of HVAC and lighting equipment to reduce energy usage in intermittently occupied areas

Using high-efficiency equipment in the 3,000-square-foot parking administration building and allowing occupants to control factors such as in-floor heating and overhead cooling systems should save 25% in heating and cooling costs, says Jason Gerke, a mechancial engineer with primary consultant GRAEF. Efficient plumbing features will reduce potable water use by 40%.

The project's list of green features goes on: Some 75% of all construction waste was sent to recyclers, notes project participants. And care was taken to use carpeting, paints and adhesives with no or low volatile organic compounds.

According to airport staff, the new parking administration building has enough green features to offset 35 tons of carbon dioxide per year. It design also keeps with the prairie style architecture used throughout the airport grounds.

Capacity Needed

The desire to be green was preceeded by the need for more capacity. A parking demand analysis conducted in 2006 found that existing demand for ramp spaces was greater than the supply. It also forecasted growing need for additional spaces throughout the next decade. The frequent need for shuttle service to remote parking when the ramp was full supported the findings.

Thus, a new three-story, 1,200-spot parking structure was planned and built next to the older, four-story ramp. The previous parking administration building, which was on the land now used by the new parking ramp, was too small for its needs as well. The new exit plaza expands the payment options available to travelers, notes airport engineer Mike Kirchner.

The airport still offers surface parking, next to the ramps, for $8 per day and economy parking at $6 per day. Parking in either of the ramps costs $10 per day.

No Stopping Now

One of the biggest challenges during the project was maintaining existing operations and creating as little difficulty for travelers as possible - a tall order with the airport's main road rerouted for construction.

Utilities within the footprint of the new garage had to be relocated without disrupting service to existing facilities, notes Dewey Hemba, principal with consultant GRAEF. Existing entry and exit plazas could not be demolished until their replacements were fully functional. The new surface parking lots and garage needed to be built in phases to keep as much parking available as possible. Minimizing disruption of pedestrian and vehicle traffic between the terminal and the parking structure was, of course, vital.

Coordination, say the participants, was key to making it all work.

"The planning phase of the project went very well, partly because the airport staff was fully engaged in the process," Hemba says. "This made it very easy for the team to understand their goals and objectives and to provide a facility that would meet both their immediate and long-term needs."

Project bids came in under budget and construction was completed ahead of the originally announced timetable. In addition to demonstrating the airport's environmental stewardship, the project also reinforced its financial conscientiousness because it was fully funded with airport revenues rather than tax dollars.

According to Kirchner, the new parking structure will fill the airport's needs for at least the next decade. It was also designed to have a fourth level added as needed. Given the success of the current project, the airport will have a useful planning blueprint to follow when that happens.


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