The existing parking structure at the George E. Wahlen Veterans Administration Medical Center was overcrowded and could not comfortably accommodate the patients of the VA Medical Center. The 350 additional stalls provided by this project will meet the current parking demand, as well as allow for future growth.
The biggest design challenge that was presented to Axis Architects by the client: Create a parking structure with a solution for suicide prevention and fall protection. Most parking structures have large openings, which could allow for possible suicide attempts. The exterior skin of the VA parking structure was designed to prevent this by creating a metal cladding system that creates a virtually impenetrable exterior-thus, effectively eliminating the risk.
The client also requested a material that would require little maintenance. The architect chose perforated steel panels as the material for the skin. As the metal naturally oxidizes, it creates a self-sealed surface which will not spall, discolor, or require repainting. Perforated steel sheets were bent and folded to create rigid panels. This allowed the skin to be constructed of a lighter gauge, lowering the overall weight, as well as decreasing the amount of structural support.
The enclosed design of the structure will aid in controlling access to the parking structure, which will increase safety for the users. By limiting the opportunity for people to enter and exit at any point of entry along the perimeter, vandals and thieves will be less likely to target this area, knowing that escape routes are limited.