Dayton Int'l Builds Three-Level Garage

Jennifer Bradley
Published in: 

A parking garage may not be the most fascinating airport project, but it certainly affects passengers' overall experience - especially in Ohio, where the weather is often unpredictable. Dayton International Airport (DAY) is consequently leveraging its $25.7 million parking structure as a competitive edge





Project: Parking Structure

Location: Dayton (OH) Int'l Airport

Cost: $25.7 million

Size: 660,000 sq. ft.

Capacity: 2,100 vehicles

2011 Revenues: $12,025,486

Completed: Summer 2010

Project Manager: ATKINS

Architect-of-Record/Leader of Design Team: Levin Porter Associates

Parking & Functional Design Consultant: Carl Walker

General Contractor: Barton Malow

Structural Engineer: Carl Walker

Ticketing Equipment & Gates: Magnetic Automation

Exit & Revenue Collection Equipment: Standard Parking Systems

Garage Management: Republic Parking System

against three other airports within a 90-minute drive.

With 1.3 million passengers now passing through its doors each year, DAY needed a new parking structure to accommodate its growth. The ultimate answer was a 660,000-square-foot, three-level structure with a total of 2,100 spaces - 700 parking spaces on each floor and a grade level completely devoted to rental car agencies. On most mid-week days, all 700 spots on the second floor are full, and a couple hundred cars spill onto the third level.

Previously, the airport provided standard ready lots, and rental cars were also stored outside, exposed to the elements. "The customer experience was surface lots and shuttle buses," recalls DAY's director of aviation Terrence Slaybaugh.

Today, the parking experience is quite different - close to the terminal and covered. DAY's business travelers, who make up 60% of its traffic, particularly appreciate the change because it allows them to get into and out of the airport more quickly.

Slaybaugh credits the previous airport director, Blair Conrad, for providing the vision for the improved structure. He also recognizes Iftikhar Ahmad, the director who guided the airport through the 16-month project and is now working in New Orleans.

Slaybaugh came on board at DAY in early 2011, after the garage was already operating, but continued the project by re-branding the airport's parking products. The strategy was to create a garage option for business travelers at a price corporations would pay for that service, then market it as a long-term parking product, he explains.

After re-branding and adjusting prices, Slaybaugh reports that the garage is now oversubscribed to the point that he receives complaints. The top floor, he counters, is still a good option because it is close to the terminal and, like other levels, has a heated lobby area with elevator access to covered sidewalks that connect the garage and terminal.

From the Ground Up

The airport requested bids for both cast-in-place and pre-cast options for new structure. Surprisingly, cast-in-place emerged as the more affordable option, and DAY chose it.

"The conventional thought is that pre-cast is always going to be cheaper, but in our case it wasn't," explains Dave Schilling, group manager for aviation services at ATKINS, the project manager. "Sometimes you may have a preconceived idea, but have to keep an open mind."

"The conventional thought is that pre-cast is always going to be cheaper, but in our case it wasn't," explains Dave Schilling, group manager for aviation services at ATKINS, the project manager. "Sometimes you may have a preconceived idea, but have to keep an open mind."

In addition to being cast-in-place, DAY's parking facility is post-tensioned concrete construction. This makes it very durable, explain officials from Carl Walker, the firm that served as structural engineer and parking/functional design consultant for the project. The structure should serve the airport for more than 50 years without needing any major concrete restructuring, notes Gary Cudney, president and chief executive officer of Carl Walker.

"Dayton Airport was wise in that they put a little more money up front to make the garage durable to minimize maintenance costs in the future," notes Cudney.

The exterior of the facility received a field-applied sand blast finish; exterior surfaces and interior ceiling surfaces received a concrete stain final finish.

Located directly in front of the terminal, DAY's parking structure creates the first and last impression of the airport for visitors. What was once a mere patch of asphalt is now a showpiece, with attractive landscaping and design, both inside and out, notes Bill Williams, senior vice president of Levin Porter Associates, the firm that led the design team and served as architect of record.

Lawn areas, benches, fountains and stained concrete walks were added to create a park-like setting. Inside the facility's stairwells, artwork from local third grade students hangs in translucent panels. Students were encouraged to interpret the history of flight and Dayton's place in that history.

Unlike traditional cast-in-place structures, which are built on 60-by-24-foot grids, DAY's parking facility was built on a 60-foot-by-60-foot grid. The larger grid contains fewer columns, based on the wider spacing, explains Raymond Smith, structural engineer and principal with Carl Walker. This creates a more spacious appearance in the garage by minimizing visual obstructions from one end to the other, Smith notes.

DAY chose to build the garage in such proportions to accommodate rental car businesses on the first level. It provides them the flexibility to lay out parking in either direction, explains Cudney. Designers also raised the roof of the lower level to accommodate the rental car businesses.

Energy efficiency was a main theme during the design and construction of the garage. Express ramps built on the west side were added to reduce vehicle circulation time. "They help cars get to their parking space quicker and reduce emissions," explains Cudney.

Energy savings from the lighting systems qualified the garage project for IRS 179D tax credits.

Numerous recycled materials, including 90% of the rebar in the concrete, were used during construction.


Building a 660,000-square-foot facility adjacent to an active airport terminal presented inevitable challenges for the contractors.

The first was re-routing foot and vehicle traffic during construction, because the new garage was built on an existing parking lot used by passengers willing to pay a higher fee to be close to the terminal.

Jeff Bonecutter, group manager for ATKINS, explains that primary pedestrian access to the terminal ran directly through the work area. "It was basically the front door," recalls Bonecutter. "It was a challenge to maintain the traffic from the other lots, into the terminal."

Two paths around the terminal, one on each side of the construction operation, were eventually needed and added to the scope of work.

Ensuring smooth material delivery without disrupting passenger flow was another challenge. General Contractor Barton Malow constructed a "haul road" to keep deliveries away from incoming and outgoing passengers. The company also used the haul road to access the ready-mix plant it erected on site.

Security and complying with TSA standards were especially important issues, especially for the trucks driving around the terminal.

Stabilizing the foundation was addressed by a specialty contractor that used geopiers. Larry Walden, general manager of Barton Malow, summarizes the process as: drilling a hole, removing the dirt and adding compacted rock. "It's a pretty cost-effective means of getting your foundation," relates Walden.

The expansive 60-by-60-foot grid proved structurally challenging, explains Smith, because it included long spans with lengthy girders to support the beams.

Ohio's weather was also a factor, both in construction and design. Because the express ramps are exposed to the sky, a snow melt system was installed on each to eliminate the need for snow removal, says Smith. In addition, the ramps are heated to prevent hazardous driving conditions.

During construction, the weather was messy. "We had a lot of rain," Walden recalls. "It was also hot - and hot is not good for concrete."

Despite challenges, Bonecutter says that the key point for success on this project was "the close coordination, significant involvement and positive support the design team had from the airport staff and city hall."

Rentals Rule

Consensus among officials is that the new parking structure's effect on rental car business has been a major improvement for the airport. The major rental car companies with contracts at DAY significantly contribute to paying the debt service on the garage, explains Slaybaugh. "We were able to establish a pretty unique arrangement with them, and it's made for a financially successful project," he adds.

Republic Parking System, which manages the new garage, has worked with DAY since 1998. "There was a very strong off-site market when we started, and we have been able to reduce that market and bring much of that business on site," notes Chris Howley, executive vice president for Republic. The management company assisted with the design and financial projections for the new facility and installed a variety of updated equipment. Magnetic Automation provided the ticketing equipment and gates, while Standard Parking Systems supplied the exit and revenue collection equipment.

Howley reports that parking revenues at DAY have continued to increase, more than doubling from just less than $6 million in 1999 to over $12 million last year.

Next In Line

The parking garage was the first project of DAY's $156 million, five-year capital improvement program, which is financed entirely by airport revenues. A new air traffic control tower, which partially overlapped with the garage project, is an original design, inspired by Dayton's aviation history.

Over the next five to six years, multiple construction projects will occur in the terminal itself, beginning with 9,000 square feet of new concourse restrooms this June, and the introduction of a new curb-to-gate signage and wayfinding program.


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