A Green Parking Solution for Norfolk International Airport
Norfolk International Airport is one of America’s top 100 busiest airports, with nearly 4 million passengers and nearly 77,000 flights in 2019. Located in a city that’s perhaps better known as the home port of the U.S. Navy’s Fleet Forces Command, Norfolk International Airport is also a powerful economic engine for the region, generating over 17,000 jobs with a payroll of $775 million, and total economic output of $2.2 billion in 2019.
But that’s only part of the story. The airport is located in one of the most scenic, environmentally important parts of the nation, and it’s situated adjacent to Norfolk Botanical Garden, a 158-acre botanical garden and arboretum that’s home to thousands of azaleas, rhododendrons, flowers, and trees. The site includes a Japanese garden, desert plants garden, colonial garden, and rose garden, and it’s listed on the National Register of Historical Places.
It’s an extraordinary setting and any new development there needs to be managed with great care. That includes, of course, the development of new parking facilities.
To meet growing parking need, the airport recently added a new garage, Garage D, with 3,200 spaces of employee and long-term passenger parking. Located between Garage C and the exit plaza, the new 9-level garage is constructed of cast-in-place, post-tensioned concrete, with a double-threaded spiral helix ramp for vehicle circulation.
The garage was developed on a tight site, constrained on three sides. The south side of the garage is located directly adjacent to the arrivals building, the east side fronts Garage C, and the west side is constrained by the parking area exit plaza. Through a creative process, the design team was able to squeeze a very efficient, user-friendly garage into the available space.
The garage ties into the arrival building’s existing 9-story stair/elevator core that was constructed 20 years ago in anticipation of the new garage. Building onto the existing tower required substantial modification and retrofit for the new building, including replacement of the existing elevator and the addition of two more elevators.
The new garage incorporates comfortable 9 feet by 18 feet wide parking spaces with 25-foot drive aisles. All parking is on flat floors with 8’-2” minimum headroom clearance throughout for maximum visibility and accessibility. This required shallower than normal beams to accommodate the floor-to-floor dimension of the existing elevator tower.
We live in security conscious times, and the new garage is designed to promote safety and security. In addition to the open design with no interior wall or obstructions, glass enclosed stairwells provide visibility both into the stairwells and to the outside. LED lighting on motion-activator censors provide enhanced visibility within the garage, and a blue light emergency phone system was installed to permit staff and visitors to alert authorities to emergencies. Finally, because of the garage’s proximity to the airport’s south runway, aviation warning lights are also installed on the garage’s rooftop.
Architecturally, the precast concrete façade is designed to match the color and geometry of the existing architecture façades of surrounding buildings, including the adjacent garages.
Green Design Features
Given its natural setting, it’s easy to see why environmental stewardship is an important element of the airport’s parking management and planning. Additionally, as a long-term asset with an anticipated 50-to-60-year service life, the airport authority needed a durable, low-maintenance garage… one of the basic tenets of sustainable design.
The garage features a number of sustainable design elements, starting with the use of high-performance concrete and natural ventilation throughout the garage. Energy efficient lighting reduces the amount of power that’s needed to keep the garage illuminated, and a parking guidance system further promotes sustainability by eliminating excess vehicle idling and searching for spaces. Finally, 12 EV charging stations were included in the garage’s design.
Not all of the user amenities revolve around sustainability, though. The garage also provides built-in corrals so travelers can easily and conveniently return luggage carts after returning to their vehicles.
As with any contemporary parking facility, technology plays an important role. Airport-wide, all parking facilities had their PARCS equipment upgraded. Cashier and credit card self-service lanes are open 24 hours a day, as are self-pay kiosks. The PARCS equipment can accept all major credit cards and Visa and Master Card debit cards. The technology suite also includes a reservation feature that allows travelers to pre-book and pre-pay for parking to enjoy a touchless entry and exit.
The new garage also includes a level count parking guidance system. As mentioned earlier, this is an important sustainability feature, but it’s also an important parker amenity. As airports continue to recover from the pandemic, more people are driving themselves to the airport, rather than taking public transit or TNCs. The parking guidance system counts vehicles as they enter and exit the garage and analyzes in real-time current occupancy, transmitting that information to strategically located signs.
As travelers approach the garage, the signs tell them how many spaces are available on each floor at that moment. The system can significantly reduce the amount of time it takes to find parking by directing drivers straight to areas with available parking. This is a very popular amenity, particularly for flyers who are running late and need to park their vehicles and get to their flights quickly.
Norfolk International Airport’s new Garage D is a creatively designed facility that fits seamlessly into its surroundings. And this was accomplished without impacting the fragile surrounding ecosystem. The garage truly does combine form and function.
Rob McConnell is vice president at WGI Parking Solutions. He can be reached at Rob.McConnell@wginc.com.