Northwest Community Hospital is contributing to a unique and often unheralded chapter in Chicago-area history.
Yes, we’re revolutionizing the concept of the community hospital. But with the recent opening of our seven-level sheltered parking deck for 700 cars, the hospital’s new Visitor Garage has become a part of the chronicles of the multi-story car park, which has its roots in Chicago.
The new Visitor Garage is the first fully completed of many campus renovations occurring at Northwest Community Hospital as part of a multi-year endeavor called the Renaissance Project – the most ambitious redevelopment initiative the hospital has undertaken in its almost 50-year history.
The garage provides patients, visitors, doctors and employees greater access to the hospital and shelter from the elements. It’s located on the east side of the Arlington Heights campus near the Day Surgery Center and is easily reached from both Kirchoff and Central roads. And its unique design is bringing parking innovation to the 21st century.
“Automobile-oriented architecture” arrived early to Chicago.1 In 1907, the design of the Chicago Automobile Club headquarters building allowed for vehicular entry from the street and parking space on every floor. In 1918, designers pioneered a vertically stacked five-story parking structure with a spiraling ramp for the Hotel LaSalle – the first of its kind.
For the Century of Progress Centennial Celebration of the Chicago World’s Fair in 1933, organizers built “The World’s Largest Parking Terminal.” It boasted a capacity of 24,000, floodlighting at night and policing every minute during the Exposition. Promotional literature declared, “Parking reservations are as important as your hotel reservations.”
Many car parks, like our Visitor Garage, are independent buildings that are dedicated exclusively to that use. The design loads for car parks are often less than the office building they serve, leading to long floor spans of 55 to 60 feet that permit cars to park in rows without supporting columns in between.2
The most common structural systems in the United States for these structures are either preessed concrete, concrete double-tee floor systems, or post-tensioned cast-in-place concrete floor systems. In recent times, car parks built to serve residential and some business properties are built as part of a larger building, and often are built underground as part of the basement.
Our Visitor Garage has seven levels, two of them underground.
The appearance of the Visitor Garage is that of a building rather than a parking structure due to a glass curtain wall system found on many commercial and residential buildings.
This façade, while providing a finished exterior appearance, also has its practical purposes. In the daytime, it provides abundant light. At night, it minimizes light spill from vehicle headlights to mitigate disruption to the adjacent neighborhood.
Moreover, incorporated into the design and construction of our new Visitor Garage are many of the concepts of the U.S. Green Building Council and LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) rating system.
This rating system is a third-party certification program and the nationally accepted benchmark for the design and construction of high-performance green buildings. Green buildings are environmentally sustainable, which means they protect and preserve the environment while meeting our needs.
The environmentally sustainable features of the Visitor Garage include:
Stormwater design and management is a key feature of environmental sustainability. In the case of the Visitor Garage, it includes the use of bioswales and rain gardens – each with a different purpose.
A bioswale is a technology that uses plants and soil and/or compost to retain and cleanse runoff from a site, like the parking deck. The plants in the bioswale also slow down the flow rate of stormwater runoff so more water will enter the amended topsoil that is used for the planting.
Most of the soil in the bioswale consists of sand, with a smaller portion comprised of organic material such as compost. This special soil mixture filters the water as it is absorbed into the stone layer below, which cools it. Any water that infiltrates the original soil layer below the stone helps to reduce the amount of water entering the storm sewer system.
The lower stone layer is under-drained with a perforated pipe, and the cooled, cleansed water that collects in the void spaces between the individual stones is released into the storm system at a calculated rate. This allows rain gardens and bioswales constructed in this fashion to meet detention requirements without the construction of the large surface detention ponds that have become so common in our landscapes.
Our bioswales, which cover 10,000 square feet in the landscaped strips between the new drive and the parking lot and parking garage. Below the topsoil is a filter fabric, below that is the gravel bed containing a perforated drain pipe, and below that is a bed of sand that is mixed with the native soil below. The soil conditions in rain gardens and bioswales that are under-drained this way are a lot drier that most people would expect.
The rain gardens, which occupy 7,500 square feet on either side of the parking deck entrance drive from Kirchoff Road, function in basically the same way, but their primary purpose is to gather and hold rainwater rather than move it to another location.
The rain gardens are planted with native or adapted plants that do not require additional care or watering once they have been established. The bioswales are landscaped similarly, but also contain trees.
The trees, shrubs, ornamental grasses and flowers have been selected according to the moisture conditions planned for these features as well as for their four-season interest. Many are native or cultivars of native species, but not all.
Ultimately, the intent is to provide a landscape that will thrive and beautify the campus with minimal maintenance while also serving as an example of the hospital's commitment to growing sustainably and serving as a resource to the community.
The $250 million Renaissance Project includes an eight-story Patient Care Addition that will feature 200 private patient rooms by early 2010. The new building, which faces Central Road, will also have a 24-bed critical care unit, labor and delivery area, and postpartum unit. The first floor will accommodate a major expansion of the existing Emergency Room.
Planning for the large-scale project mirrored the hospital’s Renaissance guiding principles, which focus on patient- and family-centered care, and include safety elements, use of natural light, and advanced technologies. The Renaissance Project is discovering new possibilities for healing spaces. In the process, it is redefining what a community hospital can be – for patients, the community and for the people who work at the hospital every day.
1 “A Brief History of Parking: The Life and After-life of Paving the Planet,” By Jane Holtz Kay, Architectural Magazine, February 2001
2 Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, “Multi-story car park”