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America’s Love of Big Cars Places Big Demands on Parking Structures

Parking structures provide a necessary convenience for many different types of facilities, from schools and hospitals to airports and shopping malls.  With SUVs and pick-up trucks grabbing a record 70 percent of the U.S. automobile market in 2019, it is key that these parking solutions are built stronger and more durable than ever.  Along with durability, they must also be attractive and require minimal maintenance.  Lastly, these parking solutions need to provide ample space for people to get in and out of their vehicles easily.  In this blog, we will explore two different concrete building options that can meet the goals of today’s parking structures. 

Construction Alternatives

Concrete is a key material in the construction of any parking facility.  However, two different methods can be used in the building of a structure:  cast-in-place, post tensioned-concrete or precast, prestressed concrete.  We will explore their distinct advantages below.


  • Cast-in-Place, Post-Tensioned Concrete
    • Parking structures utilizing the cast-in-place, post-tensioned concrete method are more durable yet cost less.  The concrete is poured right on-site.  Since slabs and beams are poured at the same time, there are fewer joints, which can often be a source of high maintenance.   However, this type of construction reduces the amount of structure movement, helping to reduce the number of cracks over time.
    • With fewer joints, drivers also experience a smoother ride and less noise as they move through a cast-in-place, post-tensioned concreate parking structure.  This option also offers greater flexibility and customization.


  • Precast, Prestressed Concrete
    • The other option for parking garage construction entails precast, prestressed concrete.  With this method, panels, ledger beams, columns and double-tee members are all constructed off-site.  Since these components are produced in a controlled off-site environment, concrete consistency and quality are more readily achieved.
    • Only the assembly of these pieces occurs on-site.  Parking garages can be assembled on-site quickly and in almost any type of weather, enabling quicker occupancy and reduced labor costs.  However, some of these benefits are offset by higher long-term costs dealing with increased maintenance and repairs due to a greater number of joints and mechanical connections.

Ramping up Parking Capacity at a Chicago Airport

Locating convenient parking at an airport can be challenging, especially around holidays.  To help alleviate this issue at a Chicago airport, a member of the Northern Illinois Concrete Contractors helped to construct a parking structure with 3,900 spaces.  The new facility included two helix ramps, access roads and five levels of post-tensioned concrete slabs.  This concrete contractor not only finished the parking structure within the city’s tight timeline, but also on budget.

World-Class University Expands Parking Capacity with Innovative Structure 

The city of Chicago is known for iconic Wrigley Field, a bustling downtown, the beautiful Lake Michigan shoreline, and top universities.  One world-class university campus, sitting on the shores of Lake Michigan, sets itself apart from other institutions of higher learning by consistently improving and expanding its facilities to better serve its students, faculty, administrators and visitors.  Among its recent improvements, was a new post-tensioned structure with 435 parking spots on its upper levels and a university visitor center on levels one and two.  This innovative mixed used parking facility was awarded the Post-Tensioning Institute’s 2019 Award of Excellence in the “Best Parking Structure” category.  And, the Northern Illinois Concrete Contractors are proud to say that one of its members was instrumental in the construction of this award-winning facility.  

Selecting the Best Concrete Construction Method 

A new parking garage is in your future, but you are still debating whether cast-in-place, post-tensioned concrete or precast, prestressed concrete construction is the best solution.  One of our knowledgeable members would be more than happy to assist you in your selection process.  To find the best concrete contractor for your next parking project, visit our online directory today.  


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