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Fabric canopies provide shade for commuters

Case Studies, Exteriors, Features | July 1, 2009 | By:

A new park and ride near Austin, Texas, offers commuters a cool respite from the heat.

Commuters near the Dell Computers corporate campus have several good reasons to go green when they head to work, all of them contained in this smartly designed transit hub in the northern suburb of North Austin, Texas, off of Interstate 35. Located between a major retail center in North Austin and the Dell campus in Round Rock, Texas, the Tech Ridge Park and Ride serves as the northern-most terminal bus transit station for the Austin Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority (CMTA), with multiple transportation modes such as park and ride, kiss and ride and van pool areas. Tech Ridge is supplied by a well-landscaped 500-car park that is linked to the interstate highway system and a nearby real estate area slated for future high-density transit-oriented development. Ten dynamically shaped fabric canopies cover 10 bus bays to accommodate more than 25 waiting passengers per bay.

The structural system — vertical masts alternating with concrete piers — shares columns between bays and across bus lanes. The outer-leaning columns balance the central mast of each bay while integrating the fabric, signage and lighting in a pleasing sculptural form. Landscaped planters at the base of the tensioned fabric masts help define discrete areas, while the translucent fabric canopies shelter commuters and promote wayfinding by acting as landmarks, both during the day and at night when lit up.

Main contractor/builder Lockwood, Andrews & Newman Inc. (LAN) of Houston, Texas, and the MWM DesignGroup, of Austin, worked closely with Capital Metro to achieve continuity of design standards established on previous transit projects in the area. This newest project achieved 50% greater shading coverage for the waiting areas than other Capital Metro transit facilities without an increase in project cost. Key to these efficiencies is the reuse of core prototype elements from previous projects and a very efficient tensile fabric system.

The environmentally sensitive design utilizes a number of sustainable strategies, including low-mass fabric canopies, the afore-mentioned shared structural bays (to minimize material use), and low-maintenance landscaping (rainwater is directed off the fabric canopies and down the columns to irrigate the planters of each bay) where low-water native plantings help hold moisture in the land.

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