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I’m Building a Parking Garage – Do I Need Owner’s Representation?

Success begins with thoughtful planning and design, and the owner’s interests must be well represented at each step in the process.

With traditional Design-Bid-Construct or Design-Construction Manager-Construct project delivery, the design team is contracted directly by the owner, ensuring direct planning and design coordination. However, in an effort to accelerate project delivery, or to single-source responsibility, many owners choose more non-traditional project-delivery methods, and parking structures are often delivered as a Design-Build project (contractor-led project) or as a Public-Private-Partnership (typically a developer-led project). In these scenarios, the degree of owner participation will vary, but in most cases the contractor or development partner is responsible for planning, design, and construction. In some cases, the project’s success may only be measured by initial cost, schedule, and the number of new parking spaces.

Water Street Mixed-Use Development – The City of Naperville agreed to take ownership of the parking structure following completion of construction, and WGI represented the City’s interests during design and construction. (Photo taken by Marian Kraus Photography)

Where the owner relinquishes some level of design and construction authority, but maintains full long-term maintenance and operations responsibilities, WGI recommends retaining a third party to represent the owner’s interests, and to confirm that the design appropriately considers function (entry/exit and access/revenue control, technology, vehicular/pedestrian circulation, and parking layout), user comfort and safety, wayfinding, structural system impact on performance, mechanical/electrical systems, operations, and long-term performance with respect to maintenance, future repairs, and service life.

Louisville Arena – WGI provided third-party parking consulting services, assisting the owner in making important planning, design, and construction decisions.

Ideally, third-party parking design expertise is introduced during the planning phase, with the development of bridging, or basis-of-design documents that set minimum standards for the parking structure design and construction. However, owner’s representation services can be engaged at any point during the project’s planning, design, or even construction phase. As the owner’s representative, WGI will represent the owner’s interests, providing design review and oversight, construction administration review, and general assistance related to achieving a functionally efficient and durable parking structure. Important considerations include:

Project Definition – The owner enters into an agreement with the developer or the Design-Build contractor that defines contractual terms. This agreement also should include details related to the parking structure design criteria, establishing the aesthetics, function, and durability requirements. As the owner’s representative, WGI provides guidance regarding these key design and construction elements. Our assistance may include:

  • Bridging documents
  • Design criteria documents
  • Review of owner agreements

Design Process – The design team, reporting directly to the developer or the Design-Build contractor, prepares parking structure planning and design documents. The owner reviews and approves the design but, without specific parking structure design expertise, the owner may only focus on aesthetics, cost, and schedule. As the owner’s representative, WGI will represent the owner’s interests, confirming that the design adequately considers design elements such as:

  • Number of parking spaces
  • Parking design criteria, including vehicle/pedestrian circulation, space size and turning geometry, ramping and lane requirements, etc.
  • Parking access and revenue control requirements, including operational/management requirements, number of lanes, and equipment requirements
  • Structural system and impact on cost, schedule, user comfort, and long-term costs
  • Aesthetics (architectural design and landscape requirements)
  • The use of technology in reducing operational costs, while improving the parking experience
  • Service life and durability requirements (e.g., structural system, materials, detailing/construction)
  • Implementation of parking and building technology
  • Pedestrian wayfinding and safety
  • Accessibility and building code conformance
  • Waterproofing
  • Lighting design related to user comfort, safety, energy efficiency, and compliance with industry standards
  • Security requirements (e.g., glass enclosed stairs, glass backed elevators, clear line-of-sight, cameras, call stations)
  • Construction phasing and coordination with project neighbors
  • Sustainable design requirements; energy efficiency
  • General review of electrical, mechanical, and plumbing systems including emergency power, lighting, floor drainage, storm drainage, ventilation, and fire protection
  • Future flexibility considerations, including expansion or re-purposing
  • Coordination of design disciplines (e.g. architectural, structural, functional, mechanical, electrical, plumbing, fire protection, etc.)

Construction – The construction or development team provides updates to the owner, primarily regarding schedule, payment, and scope change. The design team, reporting directly to the developer or the Design-Build contractor, reviews and approves subcontractor shop drawings and, if applicable, provides recommendations regarding change in project scope. As the owner’s representative, WGI will represent the owner’s interests, providing assistance during construction to review the progress and quality of construction, and to confirm that the structure is constructed in conformance with the final design drawings and specifications. Our assistance may include:

  • Participation in construction progress meetings
  • Review of project schedule
  • Changes in design, cost, schedule
  • Review of shop drawing submittals and Requests for Information (RFI) to confirm that quality meets the project requirements
  • Review of contractor performance related to the Construction Documents
  • Cost of construction related to the agreement provisions
  • Cost/responsibility for construction change orders
  • Payment application review
  • Shared operating costs, when separate ownership involved (mixed-use)
  • Shared common area costs, when separate ownership involved (mixed-use)
  • Review of operational agreements
  • Review of deeds for definition of air rights and easements

Parking structures require substantial investment, and should provide decades of economical, low-maintenance, and user-friendly service. Success begins with thoughtful planning and design, and the owner’s interests must be well represented at each step in the process.

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