Buffalo Niagra Medical Center Garage

Prescribing the Optimal Solution for a Medical Campus


Location: Buffalo, NY
Client: Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus
Completion: 2012
Size: 675,000 sf, 9 levels, 2,036 parking spaces
Budget: $27.3 million
Services: Project Management, Structural Engineering, Diagnostics, Parking Consulting


When a National Hockey League team tells its fans to stay home because the weather outside is “frightful,” you know something extreme is going on. In the case of the Buffalo Sabres, it was a weather trifecta of bitter cold, howling winds, and snow.

To the people living in this westernmost part of New York State, harsh winter weather is just a fact of life. So when Walter P Moore was asked to lead a design-build team to add a 675,000-sf, 2,000+ car, multi-modal garage to the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus (BNMC), we knew weather would be a factor. And not just during construction. Garages such as the one planned for BNMC are capital assets, expensive ones. They have to last well into the future, and in BNMC’s case, endure the kind of frozen environment that keeps even die-hard hockey fans housebound.

Options Move Things Along
A previous consultant had presented the client with a set of bridging documents whose design was simply too costly. That’s essentially what brought us into the mix. The Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, who would own and operate the garage, knew of our work with The Texas Medical Center and looked to us for options.

That’s what we gave them — three separate designs with three different price tags. They chose the middle one. We swapped the bridging documents for a design-build contract and fast-tracked their project, saving time during design and construction while cutting operating costs over the long term. Just two months into the design phase, we put the foundation package out for bid, with the structural package following just three months later.

Valuing the garage as a capital asset, the owners wanted it to be user-friendly for visitors and economical to operate and maintain. Durability was crucial. We calculated that our selection of materials combined with the structural design would extend the life of the building by as much as 30 years.

The garage structure is cast-in-place concrete. The concrete’s low water-to-cement ratio increased durability, as did silica fume and corrosion inhibitor admixtures, the epoxy-coated reinforcing steel, and concrete sealers. All of this inhibits corrosion and other destructive effects that harsh winters of long duration can both accelerate and make worse over time.

Flatter Is Better
From a user’s standpoint, garages with “flat” floors are better. They are simpler to navigate and less confusing once you leave your car. They also let in more daylight for a more secure parking experience. We opted for a design that did just that, with long-span, post-tensioned beams and slabs to provide column-free aisles. The four-bay, double-helix deck has two inner ramps for efficient circulation. Flat floors form the perimeter of each level. The garage is equipped with charging stations for electric and hybrid vehicles and will accommodate future solar tree arrays.

Walter P Moore’s 20+ years of working with The Texas Medical Center has exposed us to just about every challenge a medical campus can pose. We were able to transfer this experience into practical answers for the BNMC garage.