West Side Honda


Knoxville, TN


Auto Nation Inc., Knoxville, TN


Cope Associates Inc., Knoxville, TN


Carpenter Wright Engineers PLLC, Knoxville, TN


Rouse Construction Inc., Knoxville, TN

Project Scope

Sq. Footage:


Structural Precast Elements:

334 Total pieces including
• Precast concrete columns
• Precast concrete beams
• Precast concrete spandrels
• Precast concrete wall panels
• Precast concrete double tees
West Side Honda
West Side Honda
West Side Honda
West Side Honda
West Side Honda
West Side Honda
West Side Honda
West Side Honda

Precast parking facility on top of Honda showroom minimizes space needs
and is constructed rapidly thanks to precaster’s early involvement

When officials at Auto Nation Inc., selected a new site for their West Side Honda dealership in Knoxville, Tennessee, they made two things clear to the design team. The site was going to be too small to accommodate surface parking for their auto inventory, and the new facility had to be designed and occupied within a short time period. Those criteria led designers to not only specify an all-precast concrete structure but also to bring the precaster onto the design team while concepts were being considered — and before the general contractor was selected by competitive bid.

The 154,524-square-foot project features a standard auto showroom and maintenance department on the first floor, topped by a parts mezzanine and two levels of parking on the top. The building was constructed from precast columns, beams, spandrels, wall panels and double tees. Large showroom windows were provided across the front of the first level with open window areas along the top parking level. The building’s precast panels feature reveals to add dimension, with a form-finish look that was painted. Aluminum eyebrows and a logo in bright blue add further visual interest and dimension to the showroom, especially at the entry.

“Most dealerships can spread them-selves out on one level horizontally and showcase their inventory in that format,” explains Alan B. LaFon, associate at the architectural firm of Cope Associates Inc. in Knoxville. “We took a more ‘three-dimensional’ approach in this case because the site was so small.” The site is well located in a high-traffic area, which made it too attractive for the owners to pass up. The building needed to be built quickly, because the area’s wet winter weather prevents any construction that isn’t out of the ground by October from progressing until March. That would cost too many lost car sales if it could be avoided.

To meet those needs, the owner and designers decided to create a precast concrete facility that essentially was constructed as a 543-car parking structure on top of a part and equipment mezzanine and first-floor auto showroom. The designers queried several precasters in the area, asking them to submit a performance package of what services they could offer along with their experience and references. From that, they selected a precaster to help with the design, choosing Tindall Corp., headquartered in Spartanburg, South Carolina.

Shop Drawings Awaited Contractor
“We wanted to start on fabrication drawings on the precast before we actually bid the project,” says LaFon. “We convinced the owners that this approach would be more efficient than waiting until we hired the contractor.” As a result, the specifications were written such that using Tindall’s components were a requirement. “That allowed us to have fabrication drawings completed two weeks after the contract was awarded to us,” he says. Tindall in turn presented the contractor with finished shop drawings within several days of the contractor being selected.

“We’ve tried to use this format on other projects, but we hadn’t been successful in gaining the owner’s agreement,” LaFon notes. “Owners often are reluctant because they fear losing cost control. In this case, the owner was willing to trust us that the precast costs would be competitive and that the project would gain significant speed and efficiency advantages. Tindall has a good reputation and we have experience with them, so it wasn’t a difficult sell.”

Adds Carl Clary, the technical sales representative for Tindall, “This format was a little unusual, but it benefited the entire construction team, and we enjoy this type of opportunity. It makes the project move much, much smoother and faster, too, when we can have our products and details designed into the drawings. We were able to stand right by the architect and engineer’s sides and help make the design as efficient as possible.”

Joele Fowler, principal in Carpenter Wright Engineers in Knoxville, agrees. “Bringing the precaster on early helped consolidate the design efforts and schedule and allowed us to coordinate the details on the front end. As this was a fast-track project, having that input before submitting contract documents really helped avoid any last-minute surprises.”

This format proved especially helpful when the project’s scope had to change after drawings had commenced due to a cut in the planned budget. Several upper parking stories were deleted from the plan as a result. “Having Tindall on board when that occurred saved considerable time, because we were able to react quickly as a team and avoid having to totally redesign the structure to adapt,” says LaFon. “We really were acting as a design-build team at that point.”

Adds Clary, “The changes went smoothly because we were involved so early, so our engineers could be talking to the project’s engineers as changes developed.” He estimates that approximately two months were shaved from the schedule, primarily in the preliminary design stage, by including Tindall early. Without that savings, the project would have extended into the wet winter, causing delays that would have extended the time frame significantly.

Upgraded To Meet Codes
The design for the showroom/parking facility follows the general plan for a parking structure, but some modifications were needed to provide the best environment for the showroom and to meet building codes. A fire separation was required between the showroom and parking areas, so precast double tees serving as flooring were deepened to 32 inches for this level instead of the typical 24 inches, Clary says.

The second-floor parts department also was given more clearance than the standard parking levels, to provide room for auto hoists and other equipment needs. To provide quick access to these parking levels, a speed ramp was built outside of the main building. More traditional interior ramps facilitate movement between the parking levels.

A key concern was protecting the showroom level from the parking environment, especially from cars exposed to weather or being washed, notes Fowler. “We needed good separation and weather protection for the showroom, and that meant additional sealing.” Factory-topped double tees were used at this level, with the joints caulked and waterproofed. “We essentially provided a sealed rooftop condition at the second floor to provide sufficient protection,” Clary says.

Upper floors also were sloped more than is typical, LaFon notes, to ensure drainage performed precisely. A traffic topping was applied on these parking levels, with precast samples tested against several options to ensure a strong bond could be achieved.

Form Finish Supplied
The building’s exterior features a form finish with some reveals included, which is augmented by blue aluminum eyebrows to add appeal. The panels were painted with an elastomeric paint to achieve the proper coloring. Designers originally planned to use architectural precast panels, but the precaster convinced them that structural-grade finishes would meet the need. “An alternative being considered was a stucco finish, which would have provided a less-refined look,” Clary explained. “The precast form finish offers a smooth, high-quality look that will reduce long-term maintenance needs.”

Adds LaFon, “We’re very happy that Tindall talked us out of the architectural finish. It saved us from paying a premium, and we could still use the reveals and shadowlines we wanted to incorporate to express the structure. Essentially, all of the added details are aluminum pieces pasted onto the precast box.”

Erection of the pieces went smoothly, with the work finished in six weeks. The rapid completion allowed the contractor to begin interior work faster than expected. “He was able to begin coordinating other trades to bring in equipment and start finishes while we were still finishing the upper parking levels,” Clary says. “That got us out of their critical path areas for the showroom way ahead of when they had anticipated.” Adds Fowler, “The building went up quickly, faster than I expected, without any headaches. The site was accessible for work, it just was small.” The total schedule took 25 weeks from award of contracts to occupancy.

The result of the team’s close co-operation and early involvement of the precaster is a compact but attractive dealership that meets all of the owner’s needs while making effective use of a high-traffic location. Speeding up the process ensured the dealership could begin selling its wares and generating revenue as fast as possible, adding further economy to the efficient project.

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