Richmond's Green Parking Garage

By Jim Romeo | September 28, 2010

$485,000. Those were the bottom-line savings in using green building practices in the construction of a new 481,000-square-foot parking facility for the Virginia Department of General Services' Richmond Parking Garage. Employees of the commonwealth of Virginia and the city of Richmond use the facility.

MMM Design Group of Norfolk, Va., was the architect/engineer for the $16.2-million, seven-story parking deck. The facility provides 1,500 parking spaces and was constructed in a space that occupied two buildings that were demolished to make room for this new project. Of the 1,500 spaces, 350 are designated for use by the city and 1,150 are to be used by commonwealth of Virginia employees.

In this particular project, MMM designed a structure that blended into the landscape of its urban context. The variation of the facility's facade was such that vertical elements of its design resembled small-scaled townhomes. This allowed it to meld into the architectural fabric of its surroundings at 14th and Main streets in downtown Richmond. The landscaping and other elements were deftly planned to synchronize with the surroundings of this location.

The vehicle circulation was designed to avoid any congestion for vehicles coming into and leaving the parking garage. There are three vehicle entrances that evenly disperse traffic flow to three separate streets.

MMM's relationship with the project is quite fitting as the firm is ardently involved in green building practices. MMM is providing design-build services for the Social Security Administration's 68,000-square-foot facility in Roanoke, Va. Their design included the three-story facility, as well as 49 parking spaces for the public. This facility is one of the first federal facilities expected to earn a Silver LEED® rating in the commonwealth of Virginia.

LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is a voluntary, consensus-based national standard for developing high-performance, sustainable "green" buildings. LEED certification is based on a point system that evaluates projects on more than 70 criteria, including sustainable sites, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources, and indoor environmental quality.

Flexible Design for Two Users

Designing the Richmond parking facility required consideration of different users with different schedules and interests. "What was unique about this design was that we had two users: the commonwealth of Virginia and the city of Richmond," explains Wylie Cooke, AIA, director of architecture for MMM Design Group. "In one garage we had two users, two separate entrances and exits and the design had to be flexible to leave room for options in the future."

As architect/engineer for the project, MMM Design Group's role was as a partner with the prime contractor and the facility owners in completing the project on time and on budget. S.B. Ballard & Co. was the Construction Manager at Risk. TEC, Inc. of Charlottesville, Va., was also contracted to assist in identification of hazardous materials present at the site before the new construction began. Desman Associates, a leading national specialist in the design of efficient parking facilities, was contracted for the functional and structural design of the project.

280,000 Pounds of Material

Notable in the construction of the new parking facility was its use of recycled construction materials. The construction of the new facility used materials recovered and refined from the demolition of two other state buildings at the same location: the state government's Consolidated Laboratory Services building and a Motor Fuel Testing Laboratory. Both were demolished and approximately 280,000 pounds of material, mostly concrete, was recycled and reused in the construction of the new parking garage.

The project is a testimony to anyone who wonders whether it is economical to recycle construction materials from a demolition for use in new construction. In this case, it would have cost $590,000 in new materials. The recycling efforts provided such materials at a cost of only $105,000, yielding a net gain of $485,000 in savings.

In addition, the project actually generated $60,000 in copper material and other metals that were by-products of the demolition. These savings and "recovered" revenues are significant and serve as a model for many other construction projects.

Minimizing construction waste begins with the design, as the recycling effort was initiated in the early design phases of this facility. Because the project was unique in having two existing facilities to be demolished, there was a great opportunity to recover and recycle the demolished debris into the project.

The U.S. Geological Survey has estimated that construction accounts for 60 percent of all materials used in the United States for purposes other than food and fuel. This amounts to billions of tons of material used every year to construct buildings, roads, bridges, and other structures.

Efficient use of building materials not only reduces the quantity of construction waste generated, but also reduces the need to manage the materials through disposal or recycling. It is not only efficient and economical to use recycled materials for new construction, but it reduces the waste that would have been part of the design and construction equation. In reducing waste, savings result by purchasing less material, reducing on-site labor and spending less for solid-waste disposal.

Cost Avoidance

Because of its weight, concrete can be costly to handle and dispose. This constitutes over half of all building construction and demolition wastes by weight, and some of the largest costs associated with generating these wastes are in the handling, transportation and tipping fees at the landfill.

Demolition of the two facilities that stood on the site avoided the use of implosion and instead used a Caterpillar 330 excavator. Such equipment allowed for better control of fallen material during demolition.

The actual project itself received much recognition. It won the Green Builder Award from the National Association of State Facilities Administrators. In addition, the project won the Green Builder of the Year Award for 2004 from the Virginia Recycling Association.

"With regard to green construction, the market is beginning to recognize the importance of sustainable design and construction and we're trying to move at least with the market and ahead of it if we can with sustainable design," says Thomas Herbert, P.E., vice president and director of business development for MMM Design Group. "We have several LEED accredited professionals on our staff already and are beginning to look at some of our clients and projects not at just a first-cost basis, but at the life-cycle cost for some of these materials and design decisions." n

Author Information
Editor's Note: Jim Romeo ( is a freelance writer based in Chesapeake, Virginia.


Navigating the Course to Sustainable Design

When MMM Design Group was awarded the contract as architect/engineer for a Richmond, Va., parking facility, there were some challenges faced in bringing the project through to fruition:

  • The site had two existing facilities that needed to be demolished.
  • Hazardous materials from the previous Consolidated Laboratory Services building, which included a state morgue, required removal.
  • The location had a turn-of-the-century architectural fabric and the parking facility's architectural presence had to meld into this backdrop.
  • MMM was to complete this project as an architect/engineer with a $16.2-million budget and do so on time and on schedule in order to coordinate their effort with a prime construction contractor, environmental contractor, and a parking consultant; material from the existing facility was to be recycled and reused and factored into the project budget.