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The practice has done a few car repair shops, sometimes from scratch on a vacant lot, other times it’s a renovation of an existing commercial establishment.  Always this typology has been unique and presented challenges to the team.

The Site:

We are at most times presented by a pre-qualified site by the client, usually the location has good vehicular traffic, and close to their intended market.  Evaluation of the site would include: the setbacks, possibilities for firewalls, retaining walls, the elevation of the lot with regards to the street and danger of flooding, topography, allowable heights and of course the local zoning designation.  Ideally the site should be a Commercial or Special Economic Commercial Zone as designated by the local government.  Confirmation with the City’s Building Official would be a requirement so that all parameters are confirmed, as well as a site visit.  Be wary of water ways and other natural features that will have special setback, environmental and approval requirements.  Trees and other landscaping should be maintained as best as possible.  Utilities like power, water, sewer should be noted during the site visit.


There are many large equipment and tools used in car repair, and an inventory of all that will be installed is necessary for the proper allotment of space and evaluation of traffic.  This inventory should be done for all existing machines, and best if seen in their current state, as well as familiarity with new and upcoming models that would be in the market in the medium term.  After the inventory of the equipment, requirements for power, air, water, drainage among others should be noted for coordination with engineering, and to confirm with the client, the capacities that their operations will use.  The dimensions, clearances and tolerances with regards to the equipment’s installation and operations should be familiar, as this will have a bearing with the building’s structural and engineering.

Design & Planning Considerations

The equipment are already one consideration in design, the vehicles serviced are the next.  A range of cars, vans, SUVs, pickups etc. are usually considered, particularly their height, width & length which will dictate how well the facility can accommodate them.  The turning radius for the vehicles is important to consider as this will affect the efficiency of the shop in accommodating its customers and the number of parking slots.  We have found that parking efficiency or the area provided for a service bay is more than for a parking garage, hence the need for larger space, but with just as great emphasis on efficiency.  The parking layout must be able to accept customers without bothering ongoing car repairs, it must provide for easy ingress and egress from the facility and provide for expansion when possible.  Traffic within and along the main road servicing the shop should be evaluated to provide the easiest ingress to encourage customer loyalty and comfort.  An overview of the standard and special operating procedures of the shop should be known so that the facility can be made to best service these unique requirements.  If a ramp will be provided, evaluate the ramp’s profile or shape to prevent the rear or front part of the vehicle’s chassis from hitting the pavement or enclosing walls.  Car repair shops also have special utility requirements in terms of water, drainage, power that can be gleaned from consultations with operations staff, building officials & the client.  There is also the matter of security for the shop when it’s closed or open, during the day and the night.  Safety for all users of the proposed design must also be considered.

Case Study/Proposal

This proposed study for a car repair shop was done for an area in Metro Manila, with an assumed Commercial 2 zoning designation.  Setbacks were done as per code and ordinance requirements, as well for ventilation, parking allotments and siting of the building.  Though mercantile and industrial in character, the building must be appealing to the customers and live up to branding if any.

As can be seen on the plan, equipment like, car lifts, lifters etc., are indicated, and a standard turning radius is superimposed.  Other provisions like: offices, toilets, customer seating and stair cases have been considered and laid out as coordinated with the client.

In this section, the height was dictated by the existing equipment, new equipment locally available as well a new machines coming from China, the US and Europe.  Natural and mechanical ventilation was also considered in the height because of the workings of vehicles’ internal combustion engine.  Stairs and access ways were done in such a way as to be efficient and provide the required comfort in daily use.

The building’s exterior envelope was the result of finding a simple shape that would best feature the functional aspects of the program in a compact, easy to maintain and secure way.  The color and treatment was done to highlight a brand or company profile, and considered the visual corridors available from the road so that potential customers would be aware of the establishment as they went up and down the street.

In conclusion the design of a car repair shop though utilitarian at first glance, offers design and planning challenges that an architect needs to address, and package in an architectural plan and vocabulary so that its totality is not just an industrial outcome but a thoughtful organization of space in design for the benefit of the customers, technicians, staff and clients.