University of Houston East Garage Fire: Responding to an Emergency



Winning Team

Randy Beard
Hakim Bouadi
Mallory Buckley
Ray Drexler
Narendra Gosain
Matt Heringer
Aracely Martinez
Matthew Pavelchak
Enrique Vaca
Mark Williams
Arunkumar Zanje

University of Houston East Garage Fire: Responding to an Emergency


Founded in 1927, the University of Houston (UH) is the third largest university in Texas. 44,000 students attend UH annually, and as the university expands its campus, the population of students, faculty, and visitors, continues to grow. To accommodate the growing population, UH built the University of Houston East Garage as part of its 2006 Campus Framework Plan. In April of 2018, a multiple-vehicle fire occurred on the third level of the East Garage.

Initially engaged for the design of this parking garage were our Parking, Civil, and Traffic Groups. Walter P Moore built on the existing client relationship by deploying members of our Emergency Response Team (ERT) when the owner called on us immediately following the fire. Our team was on-site within hours of the event to provide an emergency assessment of the damage, as well as to facilitate the implementation of immediate safety measures. During the fire, significant structural damage occurred to two columns, to the framing of the garage’s fourth level, and the exterior UH sign. Our initial course of action was to safely evacuate the garage and provide emergency shoring to aid first responders and our team in assessing the damage.

This project gave us the opportunity to work strategically to overcome two major challenges. The first issue was the time-sensitive nature of the project. UH was nearing the end of its spring semester and would need the garage to be fully operational before commencement of the fall semester. After completing our assessment, Walter P Moore’s expeditious approach ensured the repairs were made ahead of schedule. We coordinated with the construction team to accelerate off-site fabrication and delivery of materials.

The second challenge we faced was the logistical approach of working in a highly visible, highly operational space. Our team’s commitment to a collaborative culture meant that we worked with our sub-consultants and construction team to limit intrusion of the daily operations of the undamaged areas of the garage. Our cost-efficient strategy was to develop distinctive engineering solutions to remove damaged sections of the parking garage without extracting or damaging unharmed sections. The location of the garage was not space-conducive for storing repair materials, so our strategic use and delegation during the construction administration phase was key to successfully meeting our deadline.

Walter P Moore’s Diagnostics experts provided thorough visual and structural assessments, employing the use of nondestructive and minimally invasive testing procedures. A cost-conscious repair design was made to honor the exceptional design framework originally put in place by our Parking, Civil, and Transportation groups. Our strategic removal of damaged concrete sections combined with the careful replacement of damaged structural beams facilitated a seamless and non-disruptive repair that saved the client the unnecessary and significant cost of a partial or total garage rebuild.

The project was completed in just three and a half months, from the first emergency call to completion of construction. Walter P Moore’s innovative investigation strategies and expertly executed procedures resulted in bringing our client’s parking structure back to a fully functioning condition. Ahead of schedule and right on budget, our team provided UH the ability to resume daily operational use for their students, faculty, and residents of the area.