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Building “the Best-Looking Parking Garage in the State”

Thinking of projects ideal for BIM typically conjures up images of skyscrapers and stadiums, but in reality, BIM brings the same value and efficiency to smaller-scale projects like the One Theater Square Parking Garage by PennStress. This is the story of "building the best-looking parking garage in the state of New Jersey".

The One Theater Square residential tower marks a beginning of a new era in Newark, NJ, downtown development, sitting directly across from the New Jersey Performing Arts Center and Military Park. One Theater Square was the first upscale high rise built in Newark in almost 60 years.

Pennsylvania-based PennStress, a division of the MacInnis Group, LLC, fabricated the structural precast for the garage and provided the detailing for all the garage precast.

“This project stands out because of its intricate brick patterns and challenging piece geometry”, says Jason Reffner, Lead Engineering Technician, from PennStress.

The exterior spandrels are massive at 18” thick with large recesses and sill profiles designed to accept the spandrel glass units. The unique spandrel geometry necessitated non-typical handling device layouts to ensure that the pieces would hang vertically when picked up on site.

The One Theater Square apartment building itself has a cast-in-place concrete and steel frame and cast-in-place concrete floors with exterior precast cladding, but the parking garage is a precast concrete structure. The architectural precast façade pieces for both the apartment building and garage were provided by Architectural Precast Innovations, Inc. (API).

 “At the time we started to model the garage, the precast façade pieces for the apartment building were already being fabricated. The detailer for the apartment building pieces shared their piece details with us so we could match what they were doing”, explains Jason Reffner.  

Challenge 1: Rapidly and accurately detailing intricate brickwork

“Thin brick is a long lead time item, which could have adversely impacted the architectural precast production schedule absent our ability to quickly generate accurate brick quantity reports at the beginning of the project”, explains Shawn Hite, Senior Project Manager, from PennStress.   

“The detailing of the brick was a challenge, which was made much easier using Tekla Structures’ component system for creating and updating repetitive patterns at a rapid pace.”

The brick patterns were broken down into small areas that were typical in several different locations. Each of these small areas was modeled as a custom part so that adjustments to the custom part would propagate to all the locations where it was inserted.

“The drawings were generated by us from our model and this is how we communicated with the architectural precast producer. We provided reports for ordering brick and hardware. We also shared 3D PDF files of the pieces with brick. The producer said the 3D PDF files were especially helpful for reviewing the locations where the brick returned around corners”, says Shawn Hite. 

Challenge 2: Coordinating the multi-material connections

The precast interfaced with steel in many locations and coordinating connections and embed locations was a challenge. Reinforcing was located to accommodate fasteners for the post-installed window units. Drawing files showing the track system and fastener locations for the post-installed window units were imported as references to prevent clashes with reinforcing.

The steel framing model, which was also detailed with Tekla Structures, was imported as a reference for locating embeds in the precast. “The steel framing model was provided to us in IFC format and we imported it into our model and adjusted the steel we had already modeled to match”, says Shawn Hite, Senior Project Manager, from PennStress.   


Using the 3D model beyond detailing in this project:

  • Procurement: The Tekla model was used for procurement through reports and hardware fabrication details.
  • Production: 3D PDF files created from the model were shared with the architectural precast fabricator.
  • Visualization: The erection sequence was visualized in the model to locate possible issues. The model was used during online meetings throughout the project to communicate issues.
  • Communication with contractor: “We provided model snapshots to the contractor to indicate what had been produced already and what was coming up in the schedule soon. This was done to set the priorities for trade coordination”, explains Shawn Hite. 
  • Communication with architect: IFC files of the Tekla model were also provided to the architect to communicate RFI's in some instances.
  • Communication at site: “Our field superintendent carried a laptop with the most recent version of the model. When any issues or questions arose, he was typically able to open the model to get the information that was needed”, says Shawn Hite, Senior Project Manager, from PennStress.  

Project overview

The One Theater Square Parking Garage provides parking for the adjacent luxury apartment building. It consists of four elevated levels and contains 285 parking spots. The footprint of the parking garage is 136' x 235' with a total height of roughly 65'. The structure contains 470 precast pieces.

PennStress fabricated the structural precast for the garage and provided the detailing for all the garage precast. Pennoni provided the precast specialty engineering and Jonasz Precast, Inc. performed the precast erection.

Project name: One Theater Square Parking Garage
Project location: Newark, New Jersey (USA)
Fabricator: MacInnis Group LLC, dba PennStress
Project parties:
General Contractor: Hunter Roberts Construction Group
Project Architect: BLT Architects
Architectural Precast Manufacturer: Architectural Precast Innovations, Inc.
Structural Engineer: The Harman Group

The grand opening of the building was celebrated in October of 2018.

PennStress, a division of the MacInnis Group, LLC, is a precast/prestressed concrete manufacturer located in central Pennsylvania.

The manufacturing facility, in Roaring Spring, PA, was originally PCI Certified in 1958. It maintains roughly 250,000 square feet of enclosed production space. The indoor space includes prestressing beds, a batch plant, aggregate storage areas, carpentry/steel fabrication shops, reinforcing steel & material storage, and many other weather protected, environmentally controlled systems/spaces to allow for high quality products to be cast year-round. The plant includes multiple casting bed locations for both prestressed and precast products.

Check out this memorable project by PennStress: Tower of Voices

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