By Aleks Couturier
The Carlisle Street Parking Garage in St. Catharines, Ont., is unlike other traditional parking structures. More than just a place to keep cars, this architectural gem stands out as an attractive, safe, sustainable building, while providing excellent ventilation and visual appeal to the community’s downtown.
Local firm Macdonald Zuberec Ensslen Architects (MZE) designed the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver-certified structure in conjunction with Burlington, Ont.’s Halsall Associates.
Greg Redden, lead architect for the project and a principal at MZE, understood the significance the garage would have in the city. Beyond the basic functionality of protecting people from falls and vehicles from the elements, the garage takes up nearly an entire city block, and is expected to be there for years to come. As a result, designers wanted to project this importance through the architecture.
MZE used a total of 860 m2 (9257 sf) of woven wire mesh on the exterior. The firm’s design called for strategically placing the material on the outside walls and inside the stairwells of the six-storey parking structure. The largest mesh panels, which are approximately 26 m (85 f) tall, are tensioned through the centre of the stair towers.
The mesh enhances safety in several ways. First, it prevents falls and provides natural ventilation so harmful exhaust fumes can escape. It also reduces headlight glare and light pollution while providing adequate visibility. Finally, it lets in an ideal amount of natural light while protecting against the sun.
Additionally, the mesh’s partial transparency transforms the building envelope from day to night. When the mesh is lit from the outside, it appears opaque; when lit from the inside, it becomes transparent.
Another benefit is the mesh’s contribution to sustainable construction. The architect’s LEED building strategies included maximizing recycled content, minimizing construction waste, and significantly reducing use of materials containing volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
The primary reason the garage qualified as a LEED Silver structure was the fact the architect specified architectural concrete with recycled content for the structure’s base. The post-industrial recycled material helped achieve the LEED requirement of 15 per cent minimum recycled material content. The specified mesh also contributed, as it has an average of 60 to 70 per cent recycled content, and is also 100 per cent recyclable.
The Carlisle Street Parking Garage was completed in early 2012, and has become a landmark structure in the city’s downtown community.
Aleks Couturier is the assistant business manager in the architecture and design division at W.S. Tyler. She joined the company in 2007 as a tradeshow specialist and participated in extensive woven wire mesh training with W.S. Tyler’s parent company, Haver & Boecker in Germany. She can be contacted by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.