Auto Dealerships Sold On Precast Concrete Structures
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Multistory precast concrete designs save real estate, provide protection and create secure storage while boosting sales for auto dealers around the country



utomobile dealerships around the country are understanding the marketing advantage that Bev Smith Ford in Lake Park, Fla., gains from being able to tout its “Four Floors of Fords!” The boast results from the dealer building a four-story precast concrete parking structure adjacent to the showroom that provides more storage in a small space. Other dealers have expanded that concept a step further by creating multistory showrooms from precast concrete components, putting display space and the parts department on the first floor and using upper floors for inventory and added showroom space. The design concept offers significant advantages by allowing better use of real estate, providing weather protection, securing inventory better and offering expanded showroom space that’s flexible and energy efficient. Dealers both above and below the Mason Dixon line are finding that precast concrete structures make sense in their geographic locations. “It was the best investment we have made,” says Joe Pepe, owner of Pepe Motors in White Plains, N.Y. The dealership created a precast concrete parking facility on its tight sight that saves the company considerable manpower and time each winter. It protects inventoried Mercedes-Benz and Infiniti autos from snow and salt while keeping them nearby for customer viewing. That cuts waiting times and makes the dealership more efficient. “It makes perfect sense to keep cars under cover in the Northeast.”

The total-precast concrete structure was designed with pretopped double tees, columns, spandrels, inverted tee beams, horizontal lite walls, shear walls and stair risers. About 267 components were used, including a solid precast wall

‘It was the best investment we have made.’
that was built along the property line to allow the facility to be built up to the line. Unistress Corp. in Pittsfield, Mass., produced the components. More dealers are realizing the benefits all the time, says John Tice, principal at Winningham, Bundy & Tice, Architects in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. “We’ve done quite a number of these, using precast double-tee systems,” he says. “They usually include the showroom, parts department, service department, everything.” Often, the upper floors, which are designed essentially as a parking structure, feature brighter lighting levels and more finish detail to create an extended showroom space. Customers can take the elevator up to the appropriate location to view the desired car. The format saves time compared to storing vehicles off-site and having them delivered by a staff person when needed, quickly connecting customer and car. Autobuilders General Contracting Service in West Palm Beach, Fla., which constructed the Bev Smith project,


The three-story total-precast concrete building constructed for Pepe Motors in White Plains, N.Y., provides inventory space for up to 500 Mercedes-Benz and Infiniti automobiles. The building reduces waiting time for cars to arrive and provides year-round weather protection.

specializes in this type of construction. The company recently finished six such projects and has four more being designed, says J.J. Wolfe, executive vice president. “All of the dealerships we build now use this format.” The company works closely with Coreslab Structures (MIAMI) Inc. in Miami, Fla., to create the precast concrete designs.

Better Use Of Space
Existing dealerships are running out of room and need space to expand, he explains. The precast concrete structure can be erected on a tight site, dramatically increasing the storage space

Fla. “They are more costly.. SPRING 2004 ‘You can more easily secure your inventory in a precast concrete structure.’ ordinances against storing autos in large. threestory project. used a total-precast concrete structural system to design its showroom.” Protection Is Key Benefit The benefits these designs provide dealers are substantial. Some local municipalities.’ Knoxville. “And you can more easily secure your inventory in a precast concrete structure..” Fire safety also is enhanced by the precast structure.. In the south. One project currently on the boards will feature a service and parts departments on the first floor with inventory storage overhead. inverted tee beams are being notched to provide ledges for further horizontal expansion if desired. notes Wolfe. where building owners worry about hurricanes. and they can’t withstand the airborne-debris [hurricane] the way precast concrete can. which includes storage space and a service center on the first floor. But even more advantages are gained when the designs are planned from initial construction. you don’t need to figure on needing so many acres of land for cars. parts department and service center with 43 service bays. Precast concrete’s durability is a significant point in its favor.Wayne Akers Ford in Lake Worth..” says Tice.” 21 West Side Honda in Knoxville. especially in Florida. Tenn. “Nobody can tell me that a steel-frame building is better.524square-foot building features a parts department on a mezzanine level. Tenn. S.” he says. The 152. notes Popper’s Lee. Double tees also can easily provide the required fire separation between upper auto-storage levels and lowerlevel showroom and service areas. But the columns and double tees on the roof are being designed so additional floors can be added later. in Spartanburg. The design was created by Popper & Associates Automotive Facilities Consultants Inc. as is shade from the bright sun to help keep the car finishes from fading.C. Protection from theft and vandalism also is enhanced by storing them in a secured. notes Tice. he notes. whether in the north or south. available. for instance.. says Wolfe.” he says. Tindall Corp. with precast concrete components provided by Coreslab Structures (MIAMI) Inc. says Freddy Lee. Fla. have instituted ‘Nobody can tell me that a steel-frame building is better. Precast’s inherent fire resistance ensures it won’t contribute to a fire spreading. in fact. In addition. provided the precast components for that 152. “Security measures are becoming more important today. because you can quickly add another square next to the existing one.” he says. features a 70. “The ability to house autos within the showroom building out of the weather is very handy.” In some cases. in West Palm Beach. “It’s easier to build horizontally. Foremost is protection from the elements. durable structure. protection from rain is important. open spaces. “If you incorporate this type of structure when you’re first planning a dealership.000-square-foot total-precast concrete design that includes the showroom.524-square-foot. architectural designer with Popper & Associates Automotive Facilities Consultants Inc. At the total-precast concrete design used for West Side Honda dealership in . ASCENT. “But it’s not always possible to have that much land available. double tees were deepened to 32 inches from the standard 24 inches to meet the fire codes. dealers even are designing precast concrete structures with an eye toward further expansion.

clear spans also aids design flexibility when using precast concrete components. “They ensure there are no layout issues. we don’t have the sun beating down on the showroom roof. Northeast Concrete Products LLC in Plainville. but the .” says designer Mark Regent. incorporating a parking structure offers a real solution.” Lou Bachrodt Chevrolet in Coconut Creek. Mass.” Energy efficiency also is enhanced with the precast concrete system.6-acre site to provide sales. which open up higher-level interiors and ensure flat.. which was designed by Popper & Associates Automotive Facilities Consultants Inc. Wolfe notes. for instance. 45 service bays and a car wash. Other dealers are beginning to catch onto this and air-condition their spaces to compete for top employees. “These buildings are designed for cost effectiveness and efficiency.” he explains. provided the components for the project. as well as offices and a parts department. “We often create 75-foot open spaces using double tees. and storage space can’t be found. The total-precast concrete design was constructed by Autobuilders Inc. Regent Associates Inc. easily accessible space throughout the building.” he says. “By adding more levels above the showroom and parts departments. Fla. The three-story facility includes additional parking on its roof. which works as a marketing tool to hire mechanics and other service people easier. Au t o b u i l d e r s’ Wo l f e a g r e e s . Precast Aids Design The ability to produce long.. For the Lexus of Watertown dealership in Watertown.. with precast concrete components provided by Coreslab Structures (MIAMI) Inc. Fairbanks Chrysler/Jeep/Dodge in Tamarac. Mass. was designed to feature a two-tone showroom across its front (with display vehicles overhead) and an expansive space for inventorying vehicles stretching out behind it.-based design firm. service and storage facilities for its inventory of cars.Lexus of Watertown in Watertown. principal in the Worcester. architects say.. Fla. features a 207. Mass. in West Palm Beach. architects used two 70-foot-long double tees to create a 140-foot-wide space that allowed for the long spans required for a vehicle service facility. constructed a three-story precast concrete structure on a 3.480-square-foot total precast concrete structure to house 400 cars. “This was a more complicated building than the usual type that dealerships often build. produced the precast components. “But where real estate is at a premium.” His company uses designs that incorporate external speed ramps. Fla. Mass... That allows some dealers to more easily air-condition their service and parts departments. Coreslab Structures (MIAMI) Inc.

and it’s never a problem. “The design frees up real estate. By designing with precast concrete components. Fla. and precast ensures that happens. Ironically. briefly considered a hybrid design. and precast concrete encloses the space quickly so we don’t have to worry about that. “Everybody loves the speed. there was no real advantages.” says Tice. “We use a variety of finishes. do interior finishes or start drywall if it’s raining every day and we don’t have the roof on yet. The project was designed by Winningham. making more efficient use of every square foot.” Wolfe says. but they don’t work as well. 23 ‘We’ve tried other materials. “We’ve tried other materials. particularly on the firstfloor showroom space. SPRING 2004 . Speed To Market Helps One of the most critical factors in favor of precast concrete structures is their speed to market. such as keeping the steel painted.” Regent says. he says. all agree. It also helps enclose the structure quickly. “Dealers are always on a tight schedule and want their showrooms to be generating revenue.. which sets the tone for visitors. “Precast is way faster than any other type of concrete. for instance. Autobuilders has used a variety of finish designs.” says Tice. costs are higher without that added overhead protection.” Tice agrees. which allow parking on the body-shop roof. such as the one used on the Lexus of Watertown showroom. Even one-story structures benefit. “We need that roof. Bundy & Tice Architects. attention-grabbing appearance. Precast concrete’s speed is an allimportant factor for us.” he says. brick and other finishes can be replicated easily. Inc. the roof can be used for parking autos.” says Regent. gray tone that Lexus dealerships feature. but they don’t work as well. If you’re creating even a one-story building and using only the ground level. designers say. “This must be the first time that a precast concrete finish had to replicate the look of EIFS. Designers on the Lexus of Watertown project. Stone. so now we’re using precast concrete panels as often as possible.” says Popper’s Lee.’ Long-range maintenance needs also help boost precast structural systems. The service and body-shop portions feature precast concrete joists. precast panels even can be designed to replicate exterior insulation finish systems (EIFS). approvals and drawings progress allows the precast structure to begin erection as soon as everything else is ready. speeding the timetable by which interior trades can begin work. the companies work as fast as they can through the winter to beat the summer rains. “But when the estimates came in. “It’s a real benefit to get that structural shell up so others have something to work inside of.” Wolfe agrees. Many Finish Options A wide range of finish options help precast concrete structures blend with any existing buildings or create a dramatic. reducing costs over the life of the building. which aids the process even more. including employee cars. A buff cement was used in the mix to create the needed warm. “We can’t lay carpet. Photo: ©Aerial Photography. especially with the longterm maintenance needs that would have been required. In the south. with Autobuilders serving as general contractor. with precast ASCENT. includes Lexus and GMC dealerships along with a detached body shop and car wash. which is mandated by Lexus.” panels hung on a steel frame.The Pines Auto Plaza in Pembroke Pines. The ability to cast components as site work. you’re wasting space.

the precaster offered everything from top to Click For More… For additional information on this story. architects pointed out. He increases that minimum a little further and creates a mezzanine or split-floor design in first-floor areas that don’t require the extensive height of the service department.pci. attractive look that is quickly erected without labor congestion on the site. he says.” Using another material on the first floor that has to be matched to upper spandrels produces unsatisfactory results. say designers. except for the foundation and mechanicals. than a standard parking structure with retail or office space on the first floor. that featured thin-brick insets on the wall panels.. “You have to ensure that it’s watertight.” says Tice. factory-topped double tees were used.pci. N.” level work as a showroom and service center.” ■ — Craig A.” The range of options ensures design flexibility. features an elaborate four-story design plus additional parking on the roof. notes Seymour Gage. N. We definitely expect to do more in the future. “Using precast panels on the first floor speeds up the process and ensures a consistent look throughout the building. delivery and erection.” says Gage. “There’s a great potential to do more of them. Popper’s Lee embraces the added dealerships04. The design was constructed by Autobuilders Inc. . “Dealers are beginning to see a precast design in their area. “Marrying this variety of functions together takes more design work than a traditional showroom or parking structure would or at your local precaster’s Web site.. essentially creating a sealed rooftop for the lower floor.” Adds Wolfe. ramps to the second and upper floors must be longer.” says Lee. Receiving all materials from a single source of supply not only enhances appearance consistency and minimizes site congestion. but it ensures fewer field adjustments and a faster process overall. They won’t leak. so there are absolutely more being done. “We’ve never had a problem with a precast concrete structure. but that can be achieved easily with topping and caulking. The advantages provided by these systems have more dealers examining the potential. 24 so now we’re using precast concrete panels as often as possible. and they want their own just like it.” And precast’s ability to panelize the masonry ensures a uniform. “The need to paint and keep repainting complicates the project. SPRING 2004 Minimal Design Challenges There are some design challenges that must be considered when creating these structures. His firm recently completed a dealership in Schenectady. Foremost is the need to make the first pci. especially when we can achieve the look we want with precast panels.) To learn more about total-precast concrete structural systems.Y. visit the Designer’s Knowledge Bank by clicking on the DKB icon at www. principal at G. with the joints caulked and waterproofed. the architectural and structural engineering firm for the Pepe Motors project. “It really eliminates a lot of the complexity that comes with these projects.pdf.Central Florida Chrysler/Jeep/Dodge in Orlando. “People are paying attention now.Y. Associates in Pleasantville.” Wolfe says. with precast concrete components provided by Coreslab Structures (MIAMI) Inc.L. typically at least 14 feet. This requires taller ceilings. Speed and appearance are the deciding factors. Upper floors also were sloped more than is typical to provide faster drainage.” At West Side Honda. Shutt ASCENT. “With one supplier providing the manufacturing. using a total-precast concrete structural system. visit www. so aesthetically they’re comparable.. Fla. (Adobe Acrobat version 4 or greater required. The other key concern is ensuring the open environment of the upper parking levels doesn’t create a problem for the lower contained floors. “You can achieve the same appearance with precast concrete as with other materials.A.” Lee says. designers note. As a result. explains Tice.

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