Sunshade Solutions for Parking Facilities

Parking garages have evolved from boring to bold architectural statements, providing beauty in addition to a place to park cars.

Novel exterior products reveal unique design opportunities

By Eric Sposito

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Today, parking structures with their large uninterrupted exterior façades often serve as an architect’s blank canvas, and more and more building owners are using them as a means to express their corporate brand and personality. By incorporating innovative custom architectural shading devices that include a broad spectrum of colors, LED lighting and even Midland, Mich.-based Dupont’s Corian Solid Surface materials, architects are reinventing the perception of parking structures without sacrificing performance.

Aesthetic Options

While parking garages are historically known for institutional or Brutalist architecture, the days of elementary parking facility design are dwindling. Exterior products such as custom architectural sunshades, louvered screens, geometric grilles and vision barriers have been known primarily for their functional benefits of enabling airflow and reducing light pollution from headlights. Yet, in recent years, new sun control offerings have been developed that provide virtually unlimited aesthetic options and design flexibility to support ambitious parking facility projects.

Traditionally, to create the illusion of movement on building façades, a twisted sunshade effect has been achieved by mounting blades on building exteriors at different angles. Today, new sunshade systems employ airfoil blades and rectangular tubes manufactured in a twisted shape to create the appearance of rolling waves. Sunshade blades also can now be installed in sequential or irregular order or stenciled, punched out in creative patterns, and even crafted out of Corian Solid Surface materials to add personality to a building façade.

Custom architectural sunshades also can be outfitted with a Corian Solid Surface translucent material that glows in the sun to create inspirational effects, and colored or patterned fixtures can be employed to create vibrant themes that reflect an organization’s branding, the exterior environment and more. With superior resistance to impact and scratches in addition to exceptional corrosion resistance, custom architectural sunshades will preserve the design’s legacy long after initial installation.

Functional Considerations

Parking facilities’ primary function is to provide shelter to vehicles and drivers, and due to heavy traffic, constant movement and environmental conditions, architects face complex issues with their design. The new custom sunshade solutions are not only aesthetically appealing but also weather resistant, easy to maintain and install, and can endure natural shifting, and considerable horizontal and vertical movement. Since few parking garages are air conditioned, UV-resistant sunshades can reduce solar heat gain, enhance occupant comfort and elevate natural daylight.

Headlight pollution is also a consideration for parking facility design as headlights from vehicles inside the garage can shine through openings in the building envelope, causing unpleasant glare for the exterior environment. Custom architectural sun control solutions can mitigate this effect significantly, while also creating sight interruptions and reducing glare from the outside for drivers inside the garage and providing fog-resistance capabilities.

Contractors should collaborate closely with architects on projects that include custom sun control solutions to avoid compromising the project’s overall visual design. The wide range of custom architectural sun control options available today can make it difficult to substitute other products for those in the original specification because while some products may offer similar functional benefits, they may not satisfy the project’s aesthetic requirements.

Exemplary Installations

Sunshades of all types can be used together in parking facilities to achieve multiple benefits. Miami Dade College, Miami, renovated its Brutalist-designed parking facility at its InterAmerican Campus with 8-inch and 12-inch vertical airfoil blades in a mix of vibrant colors, which exemplify Miami culture, to provide the parking garage exterior with depth and artistic flair. In addition to providing a unique aesthetic, the airfoil blades block light pollution caused by car headlights exiting the garage and allow for airflow, which is important for a garage filled with cars and emissions.

When New York City’s Department of Sanitation parking garage needed to discreetly house 150 garbage trucks in SoHo, the structure was also tasked with blending in with the neighborhood while meeting functional and technical requirements. Over 2,000 custom-designed, vertical perforated sunshades were installed on the façade to reduce solar heat gain and enhance daylight entering the building. Blade perforation size and pattern were critical for performance and aesthetics.

These installations highlight the growing possibilities for both new construction and retrofit projects when custom architectural sun control solutions are employed. Architects no longer have to choose between form and function for their designs, even for projects as (formally) pedestrian as parking structures.

Eric Sposito, CDT, is general sales manager at Construction Specialties Inc., Lebanon, N.J. To learn more, visit

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