Branch Technology, a construction-technology company that 3D prints facades for commercial buildings, recently played a pivotal role in the redevelopment of the Monroe Street parking garage in Huntsville, Ala. The parking deck facade needed to be “attractive and dynamic,” because it is central in the redevelopment of the Big Spring Park area, home to new hotels, entertainment venues, and bars and restaurants.
“Huntsville is an engineering and technology town,” says Les Tillery, principal at Fuqua & Partners Architects, the project’s architectural firm. “The idea that Huntsville could take a lead in 3D printing technology on an important downtown structure was pretty powerful to us as the architects. We thought it was appropriate to use Branch Technology panels. The technology is representative of the city and its trajectory.”
“Serving as a partner on such an important downtown Huntsville revitalization project was certainly attractive to us at Branch Technology, and we were proud to bring our expertise and game-changing results to help the architects on the project achieve their vision,” says Platt Boyd, founder and CEO, Branch Technology. “Our approach to 3D-printed facades truly liberates designers, allowing them to design what was previously possible digitally, but not physically.”
The facade is made from exterior panels that take their shape from an innovative 3D-printed open lattice material called BranchMatrix. This 3D-printed material can be made into virtually any shape or form. To create these facades for the parking garage, Branch filled the 3D-printed, lightweight polymer shapes with 2-pound-density insulating foam, robotically milled them back to the geometric surface, and then finished them with glass fiber reinforced concrete. The result is a lightweight, energy-efficient, and durable building facade. The parking deck facade features the largest panels Branch Technology has ever produced, totaling approximately 12,000 square feet.
“Branch allowed us to achieve unique shapes that we wouldn’t have been able to get otherwise,” adds Tillery. “3D printing design options are pretty unlimited in terms of what you can create. There was nothing amorphous like this that existed in downtown Huntsville, so it was very attractive for us and for the city.”
Monroe Street parking garage is on prime real estate across the street from the multi-purpose Von Braun Center. The garage provides event parking during the evening and on weekends along with weekday parking for nearby office workers. The parking deck is lit with LED lighting to create an even more dynamic effect, especially at night. This is on full display for late-night traffic coming in and out of the garage following evening events.
Branch’s advancements in 3D printing technology allow for unprecedented creativity for large construction-scale projects. Shapes are produced directly from digital files rather than being interpreted from shop drawings. The result is extreme accuracy, true to the original design. The process is much faster than typical fabrication methods and produces drastically less waste compared to traditional construction projects.
The Monroe Street parking garage was completed in October 2021. In addition to Branch Technology, Fuqua Architects, and the city of Huntsville, the project team included Turner Construction Company, precast concrete manufacturer Metromont, metal fabricator Ben Parker, and engineers LBYD Engineers and Larson Engineering.