New 7-Level Garage Increases Parking Capacity and Convenience for Customers

New 7-Level Garage Increases Parking Capacity and Convenience for Customers
Kristen Rindfleisch
Published in: 

When Kansas City International Airport (MCI) debuted its new terminal in February, it also opened a new 6,200-space parking garage to go with it. The pre-cast concrete structure was built to accommodate growing demand for on-site parking and provide customers with ready access to the terminal. The new infrastructure also bodes well for airport employees, because they will begin parking in one of the previous terminal garages after related projects are finished.

MCI is located in the northwest quadrant of Kansas City’s metropolitan area, but much of the population density is on the south side. As a result, many travelers drive themselves to the airport, causing significant parking capacity issues in the past. The airport’s two previous garages had about 2,200 spaces each, but several studies determined the new garage would need 6,000 to 7,000 spaces. 

Building the new garage proved to be tricky because it needed to be in the middle of the large project site that included the new terminal. To minimize the impact on travelers during construction, the Kansas City Aviation Department and its design-build partner Clark | Weitz | Clarkson used master planning and roadway adjustments to route travelers around the new project site before taking out the existing roadways.


New Terminal Parking Garage

Kansas City (MO) Int’l Airport

Size: 2.5 million sq. ft.

Cost: $151 million

Aug. 2020–Feb. 2023

Capacity: 6,200 spaces

Key Components: Exterior speed ramps, 4 commercial lanes, valet parking, electric vehicle charging stations, photovoltaic solar integration, parking guidance system

Architect: BNIM

JE Dunn Construction

Photovoltaic Solar Array: 
Good Energy Solutions

Glass Façades: 
Bendheim; Längle Glas

Parking Guidance System: Park Assist M5 Smart Sensor, by TKH Security

Key Benefits: Increased parking capacity; automated guidance system directs drivers to open spaces; former terminal garage will be used for employee parking

Structural Features

The seven-level garage was built through a collaborative design-build partnership of BNIM and JE Dunn Construction. The garage includes exterior speed ramps to all levels of the garage, four commercial lanes, valet parking and elevators to the terminal.

The building was constructed from 4,382 pre-cast concrete pieces, with a shingled glass façade on the north and west sides, plus a curtain wall system on the west end that faces the terminal. “The structural pre-cast design brings to market a new (for our region) 15-foot pre-cast double-T size,” says BNIM Architect Mark Neibling. “This helped reduce the pre-cast piece count and will continue to impact future projects in the region.” Redundant power feeds from multiple utility substations/generation systems helped eliminate the need for a local backup generator. They also allow MCI to keep more of the garage online (e.g., revenue collection equipment) in the event of power outages and provide a high level of redundancy and safety, Neibling adds.

BNIM and JE Dunn coordinated closely with Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, which designed the terminal. The firms visually integrated the new garage with the nearby terminal by using a similar structure, roof and glass façade.

Inside, an automated guidance system from TKH Security helps travelers find available parking spots. Smart sensors monitor up to six spaces simultaneously, and bright red and green LED lights visually guide motorists to available spaces. “I don’t know how I will be able to park in a garage that doesn’t have that,” jokes Justin Meyer, deputy director of Aviation – Marketing and Air Service Development. “My eyes now immediately go to the ceiling. We’re going to become very spoiled, very quickly with that kind of technology.”

The system is reducing the time it takes guests to park by as much as 63%, he reports.

Powering Up

A 510-panel photovoltaic solar array on the south façade of the garage is designed to provide up to 168 kilowatts of energy, which Neibling notes is the amount used by 20 average homes per year. The system’s monitoring equipment allows the Aviation Department to continually track its energy output.

The solar array provides power to the garage electrical system, including charging the airport’s electric bus fleet. (Click here for more information about the buses.) Solar panels and wiring were designed and supplied by Good Energy Solutions of Lawrence, KS, and installed by Staco Electric.

To accommodate travelers with electric vehicles, the new parking garage contains 60 charging stations (four in ADA-compliant stalls) plus conduit pathways for future expansion. Valet attendants have access to another four spaces for electric vehicles, so they can ensure that customers’ vehicles are charged and ready when they return.

Closer Parking for Employees

With the new terminal open, the former B and C terminals will be demolished later this year. The C Garage will also be razed. The B Garage, however, has years of life left in it and will be repurposed for employee parking.

Currently, the Aviation Department transports hundreds of airport workers to and from a surface parking lot about two miles away. Shuttle buses run all day, every day, at a cost of $1 million per year. Moving employee parking to the B Garage near the terminal will not only eliminate this expense, it will also save employees time. For instance, those working the 3:30 a.m. shift typically catch the 2:50 a.m. bus from the current employee lot. Soon, they can drive right to the B Garage and walk directly to the terminal. “It’s hopefully a cost savings and quality of life improvement for everybody,” Meyer remarks.

Eco-Conscious Elements

Concrete and foundations for the new garage included a high percentage of supplemental cementitious materials such as fly ash and silica fume, which reduced the overall quantity of cement needed. This was important for sustainability, as cement is a high carbon footprint material.

Mike Boyd, vice president of JE Dunn Construction, notes that the pre-cast concrete used to build the structure was sourced from the closest plant to the work site, reducing truck emissions and fuel consumption. A white concrete mixture was used on the top layer of the structure to increase solar reflectivity.

The structure’s tempered and laminated glass façades, by Bendheim and Längle Glas, provide natural ventilation. The “shingled” design creates pockets of air that slide between the glass panels, creating airflow in and out of the garage.

Inside the new building, the parking guidance system helps drivers find parking spaces more quickly, which reduces associated fuel consumption and emissions. Lighting fixtures include daylight sensors to adjust output based on varying conditions, saving energy and money. “Fixtures throughout the garage communicate through a wireless mesh network to allow full programming control and optimization of the lighting system,” says Neibling.

Given its many sustainability features, the garage helped the overall terminal achieve LEED BD+C NC (New Construction) Gold certification.

Challenges and Opportunities

During construction, one particularly tricky task was erecting pre-cast concrete panels for the garage between key areas that had to remain operational. On one side was an elevated roadway; on the other side, the airport police station and FAA control tower. “We were able to create a laydown rock substrate that kept the flow and avoided wasted material moving and weather delays due to site conditions,” Boyd explains. “The schedule of concrete pours was a challenge during the planning phase, so our field supervision team took on that challenge.” By working with the company’s pre-build shop, the JE Dunn field team was able to construct its own leave-in-place bulkhead and a custom expansion joint block to reduce labor and expedite workflow.

The construction site was also constrained by the airport’s master plan. “Working within the given boundary was challenging due to the modular nature of parking structures and common structural bays,” Neibling remarks.

Faced with the same supply chain issues plaguing other projects and industries, the team at MCI banded together to develop alternative options. “We also worked with the trade partners to change the original sequence of work to allow some grace on lead time,” says Boyd. “And we coordinated the major trades like pre-cast, steel, elevators and glazing in early bid packages to reduce the impact of inflation.”

On the plus side, construction vehicles were able to enter and exit the garage at the farthest point from the terminal and departures/arrivals roadways. The garage design itself is organized to isolate higher speed customer traffic away from the terminal through a series of speed ramps along the east elevation. “These ramps provide quick access to large, flat parking decks with lower vehicular speeds, lower volume of traffic and improved visibility to enhance pedestrian safety within the garage,” Neibling explains.

With the new garage complete, the Aviation Department soon learned that wayfinding cues inside needed improvement, and a fix is already in the works. The parking guidance system effectively steered drivers toward available spaces, but signage to help them navigate up and down between levels was initially lacking.

“One of the first things we heard was the confusion of trying to figure out how to get from one level to the next,” Meyer recalls. “The problem is that you get too close to a project, and you start understanding how it is supposed to work and not seeing it with new eyes.” Customers could easily access the first two levels directly from the exterior speed ramps, but getting to levels three and higher proved more challenging. While the project team devises a more permanent solution, MCI is temporarily using sandwich boards to help drivers navigate to the upper levels.

In retrospect, Boyd says that getting the construction superintendent involved with early design and budgeting helped the project go from paper to reality. “Using our [virtual design and construction] group to create embedded shop drawings and work with our field staff to load the points into the layout gun…resulted in only a handful of items that required re-work out of over 1,500 embedded items,” he reports.

Intermediate project details aside, the Kansas City Aviation Department is happy to have MCI’s new 6,200-space garage in full operation. Average usage fluctuates throughout the week. During peak times, Tuesday to Thursday, the garage is typically 75% to 80% full. On weekends, it is usually about 60% full.


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