Technology by Design
We’ve grown accustomed to talking about the important role technology plays in parking management and creating the best customer experience possible, but it also plays an important part in parking design. Modern 3D design software enables parking designers to give parking owners a much larger role in the design of their projects, assuring that the finished work will truly be a realization of their vision.
3D design technology also allows designers to make the owner an integral part of the team.
3D design suites allow parking designers to show project owners what their projects will look like early in the design process, and how the parking facility will fit into the local environment. For multi-modal and mixed-use develops, the software can also show owners where the non-parking elements will fit into the project. Owners want to be able to visualize their projects before the project is completed—before the first shovelful of dirt is turned—and 3D design technology provides that early peak.
Virtual design isn’t new, but there have been extraordinary advances over the years. Recent breakthroughs in 3D design software permit parking designers to do things that CAD users have only been able to dream about in the past. Modern 3D technology allows engineers and architects to design projects inside and out, and recreate the immediate environment in which the project is located.
Within the project, the technology can be used to show project owners the smallest details: where window openings, support columns, doorways, elevator and stair towers, and other design elements will be located. It can also provide a glimpse of the types of technologies, such as parking guidance, LPR, and PARCS, that can be utilized and where they can be located. Of course, it can also show parking geometrics of the proposed parking facility so owners can gain a better operational understanding of the garage.
Outside, architectural elements of the façade can be displayed. And once the building itself is completed virtually, software tools like Lumion and Open Bridge can be utilized to show how the landscaping will look, or how other structures, like bridges and roads, can be incorporated into a particular design.
The value of being able to see what the finished project will look like before breaking ground or cutting a check is obvious. But this is also where the owner’s vision is realized. 3D design technology also allows designers to make the owner an integral part of the team. Together, owners and their designers can go through the project, moving various elements and seeing how they will work, either together or on their own, if they are altered.
Want to experiment with the addition of a solar array on the garage’s roof? Owners and their designers can add one to see how the new configuration works. Or perhaps the material being used for the façade doesn’t fit as well into the local environment as expected. The team can just change façades and materials until they find something that works better.
The technology is also very helpful for cost detection. It allows owners and their teams to see how all the design elements will affect each other and determine whether alternative approaches would be less costly. It also allows owners to weigh the relative costs of certain design elements against each other.
Many owners find that the technology helps them locate places to reduce costs in order to be able to include more expensive design elements and approaches in other parts of the project. This flexibility is invaluable when owners and their design teams face difficult choices about what to include or remove in order to assure the best project design possible, and to make sure that design reflects their vision—and not just vision of their design consultants.
Selling the Project
The benefits of 3D design technology extend beyond the nuts and bolts of designing a parking project. It can also be extremely useful for helping to gain approval for projects that face opposition or questions about whether the project is a good fit for a certain neighborhood, community, or campus.
Just as the technology allows parking project owners to travel virtually throughout and outside the building before it is even built, it also allows neighbors, local leaders, and other stakeholders to see the completed project and how it will fit into the area. Owners can show exactly what it will look like: the project’s scale relative to surrounding buildings; its façade and how it will fit into the neighborhood; landscaping; and even the supporting infrastructure, such as roads and lights, and how they will affect neighbors.
It is also a terrific presentation tool for public meetings, or conferences with community leaders and other decision makers. All owners and their design teams need to do is load the 3D simulation into a computer to demonstrate what the project will look like and how it will fit into the community. It can also be used to zero in on elements of the project that may be of particular concern in order to alleviate those concerns.
The software can also help overcome the anxiety of individual neighbors. For instance, say there’s an adjacent home or business whose owners are concerned about the project. With the software, design teams can recreate the view from that home or business right on the computer screen and then show the owners what the view of the project will look like to them. The team can also use it to demonstrate traffic flow and how the project will affect local traffic.
As with the design stage, the software can also be used to make adjustments to the project during the approvals stage as well. If project owners and designers want to give select decision makers the opportunity to suggest adjustments, those adjustments can be made in real-time, as the decision makers look on. Or, owners and their designers can use the software to show how adjustments would change the project and its place in the community to demonstrate why the proposed design is superior.
The technology is a powerful tool for allaying fears, overcoming opposition, and earning project approval.
Visualization is the Future
The visualization provided by the various 3D design technologies represents the future of parking design. Just as simple CAD revolutionized design a generation ago, these new tools promise to transform the design process. When integrated into comprehensive design technology suites, they can provide detailed views of projects’ interiors, façades, and streetscapes, as well as how they will fit into the surrounding neighborhoods or communities.
The engineering and architecture industries are still in the early stages of adopting these technologies, however. As a result, finding a designer with the capacity to do 3D design work in-house may require some searching. It’s worth the effort, though.
3D technology is transforming the design world. Just as CAD revolutionized engineering and parking design a generation ago, integrated 3D technologies promise to do the same. The groundbreaking technology gives owners unprecedented control over their projects, while providing more design resources to parking designers. At the same time, it’s a powerful tool for winning public approval for challenging projects.
Ray Mulvaney is CADD Manager for Parking & Restoration at WGI. He can be reached at Ray.Mulvaney@wginc.com