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by Shannon Sanders McDonald, AIA?
Parking as part of an overall transportation system is one of the crucial issues of our times. As the number of automobiles increases exponentially, the need to house them in close proximity creates a challenging design problem. The parking garage or lot must foremost deal with the Functional/Operational - as in providing for safe and efficient passage of the automobile. This is a very complex challenge as automotive, engineering and traffic issues relative to site locations must be integrated to create the appropriate solution. Therefore designing the parking garage requires an integrated design approach of many professionals. Parking has often been reduced to the construction of the most minimal stand-alone structure or parking lot without human, aesthetic or integrative considerations. This has given parking a poor public perception and has frequently disrupted existing urban fabric. However, many architects, engineers, and planners have envisioned and constructed far more complex, aesthetic, and integrative structures. This should be the goal of good parking design.
Hermosa Beach Parking Structure
(Courtesy of Gordon H. Chong & Partners Architecture)
Although parking garages can take many forms as stand-alone or part of a mixed-use structure, self-park or valet, and automated in urban or rural settings, all parking garages should seek to meet the following basic criteria:
The garage should account for the complex spatial needs of the driver and the automobile:
The size, height, and turning radius of current automobiles as well as past and future trends of automobile size and statistical quantity must be taken into account these are called parking geometries.
There are many ramp design configurations and different ones are appropriate for the primary purpose of the facility to insure that your intended use is compatible with ramp design.
The streets surrounding the garage and their traffic flow must be taken into consideration when planning entrances and exits and deciding on ramp designs.
The entrances and exits are very important to the smooth functioning of the garage, with the type of use again determining the length from the opening and placement of the entry booths, as well as the quantity of entrances and exits.
The type of equipment and the necessity of a booth and office are also determined by the garage use.
Zoning issues require the number of spaces for parked automobiles. The designer must work within local codes to meet these requirements.
In mixed-use projects there has been shared parking documenting how different users can maintain full garage occupancy, such as movie/theater goers, night use and residential use during the day. This can be calculated to the advantage of the garage owner and the community by eliminating the empty night garage syndrome.
Optimizing site potential, by choice of site and its relationship to walking, driving, other transportation linkages and good design opportunities.
The operation and maintenance of a garage is very critical. Revenue control equipment and other issues related to the smooth functioning of the garage must be taken into account during the design process.
Provide for appropriate work space for the staff, such as cashier and monitoring equipment.
Provide an area or room for the storage and maintenance issues. This area should be heated/air-conditioned and contain a mop sink.
Accommodate technological tools for future upgrades of operational systems and facility expansion.
Plan for a back up power system.
Ventilation is an issue within some types and some areas of parking garage design. New technologies are increasing the effectiveness in design and monitoring of these areas for concern. Natural ventilation is always a good method however detailed study is required in some areas and types of parking garage design to determine its effectiveness.
The efficient integration of structure is crucial to maximum functioning of the garage:
The parking garage is typically an exposed structure and must be designed to withstand all aspects of environmental conditions.
There are ideal structural bays that allow for maximum number of parking spaces and flow of automobiles dependent upon site and structure.
Cast in place concrete, pre-cast concrete and structural steel can be used for the structural design.
Typical construction issues such as natural hazardsin the location of construction apply and compound the solutions in designing a structure that is completely exposed to the weather and constant movement from automobiles.
Size and length of some structures compound the expansion and contraction issues already of key importance in garage design.
The surface of the "floor" of the garage is important to slippage issues as one must always design a garage as a fully exposed building for the safe use by both the automobile and pedestrian.
In very cold climates ice, snow, salt and other road chemicals must be taken into consideration. Some garages have snow chutes where snow can be plowed off of the top level of the structure. At minimum an area where snow can be piled must be designed into the structure or lot.
Drainage and floor slope is very important, as ponding water can create long term maintenance problems.
Peer review of the design is often used on garage documents before the construction process. Performance objectives, cost-effectiveness, and building commissioning are useful tools.
Safety and Security
Safety and security of the people using the garage are of paramount importance:
Open, glass stairwells and glass-backed elevators.
Security devices such as video, audio and emergency buttons that call into the booth or local police station.
Eliminate potential hiding places, such as under open stairs.
Handicap accessibility with vehicles close to stair and elevator cores having a direct path to key movement patterns of the garage.
To avoid carbon monoxide build-up, air flow is adequately designed for through mechanical and/or natural ventilation.
Non-slip floor surface
Design for the points of intersection between man and the automobile for adequate safety of movement.
Energy efficient lighting is very important in garage safety but can pose problems with spillage out of the garage onto neighboring communities. A balance between daylighting, interior lighting and exterior control can be addressed in many ways on the exterior design of the façade while providing adequate lighting within. Lights should be vandal resistant and easy to maintain.
Use CPTED (Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design) whenever appropriate along with technological equipment.
Signs and Wayfinding
Color-coding, numbering, visual cues, music, and even machines for marking your ticket with your exact location to locate your car for easy retrieval
Locate signs in areas where driver can read in a timely fashion.
Clear, simple, and direct messages.
Floor coding can be useful
Signage should locate all major internal pedestrian access points as well as external major roads and buildings.
Aesthetics of garage design has become very important to communities across the country:
Recently garage design has become part of an architectural style of the surrounding architecture, respecting the language of design and using the design process.
The historic preservation movement was one of the key issues in garage design as garages were needed to revitalize dense older urban fabrics without destroying the architectural context. Many excellent examples can be found across the country solving these contextual issues.
The Parking garage itself is now also part of the historic preservation movement as some older existing structures can and should be designated for preservation.
The Parking Facility has played an important role in design evolution throughout its history often being the leader in many crucial design issues; it is truly a unique and important civic building. Perhaps one of the most important design laboratories of the 20th century it has become the gateway to our buildings and cities.
Bryan Street Garage
(Courtesy of Carl Walker, Inc.)
Maintain the urban street front by having the sidewalk condition of the garage contain stores or provide a safe and pleasant walk experience.
Using landscaping and changes in architectural materialsforms, and scales to enhance the garage façade along the street. Use landscaping to shied and enhance parking lot design.
Architecturally breaking down the scale of the large structure along its façade.
Designing beautiful stairs and elevator cores to enhance the community and walking experience.
Most costly solution is to "hide" the garage by placing below ground
Left: Queensway Bay Facility (Courtesy of International Parking Design, Inc. and Erhard Pfeiffer, photographer)
Right:Landscaped rooftop of Northpark Town Center (Courtesy of John Portman & Associates and Michael Portman, photographer)
Integrated and Mixed-Use Design
Garages are often connected to other uses:
The garage has always been a mixed-use structure combining and often connected with all other building types.
Plan for any loading or unloading conditions required by mixed-use, so as not to interfere with garage traffic.
Separate roofing and structural system for any human-occupied space within garage.
Provide for simple and well-designed movement systems for pedestrian and automobiles.
Many garages are combined with almost any use imaginable such as a playing surface on the roof requiring green architecture, so enjoy the possibilities of integrating a fully functional structure requiring many technological advances.
Surface parking lots can be designed to become mixed-use plaza spaces.
The garage has often in its history been part of a multi-modal system linking different forms of transportation.
The car in its' early years was the environmental savior of our cities and towns, eliminating animal waste and carcasses in our streets, part of the cause of many health and environmental hazards at the beginning of the century. But as their numbers and use have increased dramatically they have become part of the current environmental problems. New fuel sources for the automobile can eliminate these air pollution hazards and automobile manufacturers are working on the solutions. Parking lots as large areas of paved surfaces contribute to warming trends in cities and have altered local weather patterns. Large areas of paving that have absorbed oils, fuels, road salts, and other materials contribute to problems in water runoff and pollution. Garages and parking lots need to address these issues exploring porous paving in lots and best practices of water run-off issues.
Parking garages can serve an important role as a point of passage for the driver from the car into a building or the urban fabric due to their typical use as the starting and/or ending point of travel by the automobile and its driver. This gateway role is often overlooked in the design process. In attempting to resolve the complex urban and environmental issues surrounding the use of the automobile in the United States, the parking garage can be seen as part of the solution for the integration of different transportation systems as a gateway or transfer point between systems, bus, train or air. These solutions are not historically new but are seeing a reemergence, as traffic in many urban areas becomes overwhelming and extremely time consuming. The integration of the bicycle as an alternative means of transportation is finding a place in parking garage design, as special places designed for the storage and retrieval of bicycle can easily be accommodated within garage design. In Europe , separate multi-story and automated bicycle garages can be found.
Center Street Park and Ride
(Courtesy of Herbert Lewis Kruse Blunck, Architects and Assassi Productions©2002)
Parking garages can also combine with other building types as mixed-use structures due to their very function. Aesthetically pleasing designs as well as land use, safety and ease of use can be better accommodated with a mixed-use structure. Residential and Hospital use/garage combinations typically pose the most difficult design challenges due to fire code issues. An important emerging issue is addressing fire codes as related to mixed use when combining buildings with modern garages. Transit Villages and New Urbanist planning strategies are becoming popular and being built in greater frequency around the county. They each address the movement and storage of cars in various ways that combine residential use with many other building types.
An emerging issue with safety is a threat/vulnerability assessment in response to the recent 9/11 attack and previous car bombings. The current standoff distance in airport design is 300' and at or within this distance the parking garage must be studied for alternative construction techniques due to terrorism, with strengthening as part of the solution. However risk, cost, and convenience must be factored in together in determining solutions for other situations. In certain mixed-use conditions all of these factors should be considered in determining the most appropriate solutions. By selecting against the size of the vehicle and type of explosive used, the garage can be designed not to allow this size of vehicle within the garage or limit its use to certain areas. Technology may eventually play a role in the screening of vehicles for explosives as they enter the garage.
Advances in technology are changing the way we can enter and leave a garage. Technological advances in pay systems and movement access systems allow for easier flow of movement of pedestrians and automobiles. Two are AVI - Automatic Vehicle Identification systems and LPR - License Plate Recognition Systems. There are also automated systems that direct your car to the open spaces available and pay-on-foot systems eliminating the booth. Soon, there will be mobile connections so that your time of arrival to the garage is anticipated and your car is ready for you to drive away, fees already paid for. Technological advances are also changing the way and where we work. With many people telecommuting from home the parking garage can provide the mixed use of small office locations to connect to a main office location downtown.
Although safety for the pedestrian has been a recent concern in parking garage design with adequate lighting and open stairwell and elevator design, the actual movement of the pedestrian through the garage has rarely been designed for. Several garages are being designed to create a more pleasing environment with separate paths for the pedestrian from their cars to other circulation paths to specific points of destination. Vertical openings piercing the garage and landscape plantings within the structure are also creating a more open, safe, and inviting place to walk. By addressing the pedestrian within the garage and parking lots they can become a part of a total urban design system addressing our aging society and the important gateway issues of this type.
Left: San Mateo Government Center Parking Structure (Courtesy of Watry Design, Inc.)
Right: Disney Resort Guest Parking Structure Anaheim @Disney
Automated Mechanical Garages
In the United States there is a long history of mechanical garages. Starting in the 1920's and again in the 1950's mechanical garage systems were built in this country. Honolulu , Hawaii built systems in the 70's and 80's. Two new automated garages have opened in Hoboken , NJ and Washington , D.C. This type of facility is more expensive in most locations than a ramp garage to build, however certain site and/or building type relationships allow this type of facility to be economically feasible. There are many advantages such as more cars per site area, no pedestrian access to the garage and few attendants. Many structural and functional types of automated mechanical systems exist: such as underground systems as part of the building foundation or above grade where they can match neighboring buildings in architectural appearance. The actual mechanisms and movement systems that carry the automobile vary with each manufacturer.
Summit Grand Parc
(Courtesy of Space Saver Parking Company and Mid-American Elevator Company)
One idea that is taking hold is the idea of point to point use of the car. You would rent the car from home to work where it would be left in a garage to be rented by someone who can use the car during the day. The return trip home would function in the same way. Depending upon the access of these parking rental structures many point to point uses could occur. The Center for Neighborhood Technology can offer insights into many alternative approaches.
The very first parking garages were for electric vehicles and charging stations were designed within the garage structure. With the current changes in vehicle design, the parking garage often accommodates electric vehicle use for personal automobiles as well as for campus and other vehicles required for particular owners and users of garages. The way that a car is powered in the future will solve environmental issues but traffic and parking concerns will remain if we as a culture continue to depend on the single occupancy vehicle. But, as the fuel source changes, the design of the car will also evolve and the way it moves through space will change with it. These design changes will have the power to modify the garage building relationship. What this means to future architectural design is a place for interesting study and back to the future ideas. New experiments with fuel cell technology as well as other some other fuels could impact parking facility design.
As the automobile changes the parking garage and related code issues can also now to begin to change to address the new movement realities. Other movement devices are also appearing of various shapes and sizes which will challenge the interior design and flow of the parking facility as well. The parking structure and roads may even become more integrative with buildings as these new changes take place such as in some interesting historical and modern speculative examples where roads, automobiles, and parking merge.
In many communities across the country, bicycles are becoming a popular mode of transportation. While areas within garages are accomodating the safe storage of bicycles and many storage systems exist, the garage itself needs to spatially address the different needs of a bicycle driver. The smaller scale and slower speed of the bicycle, along with concentrated pedestrian traffic requires different spatial relationships and design considerations of separation of man and machine. We are now seeing bicycle parking facilities in the United States starting in California and with one recently opening up in Millennium Park in Chicago .
This term discusses a set of interrelated issues that is very complex when applied to the parking garage typology. The parking garage in and of itself is a better land-use choice in attempting to create a more sustainable built environment by increasing the amount of parking within a limited land area or making the connection to other forms of transportation reducing traffic and congestion issues. The actual construction of the garage can begin to meet the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Green Building Rating System® criteria and a new Federal Guide for Green Construction Specs will soon be available, also refer to Sustainable Design Objectives. New advanced material choices both in steel and concrete can contribute to the overall score while site sensitivity is also crucial. Lighting can be handled from both a passive design approach as well as technological solutions to just provide light when needed. While solar technology can also be used to handle energy needs. Also since the parking garage is such an integrative building typology many other solutions can contribute to sustainable design such as the now common for underground parking garages the green roof. Due to its integrative nature with other building typologies it can also help to support them in sustainable solutions designing the parking facility to become part of an energy generating solution. The parking garage has often been at the forefront of design advancements due to its ability to be transformed both inside and outside to meet changing practical needs. As the automobile and our energy sources change over the next century, a symbiotic relationship between the building, the automobile, and energy can occur, each providing energy and power to each other creating a totally sustainable solution. Water conservation, sun control shading and other passive devices can be integrated into parking facilities.
Aging of the Population
With the aging of the population the driving habits of Americans' are changing. In order to accommodate these changing needs technology can start to play a part such as with vehicles on smart highways and GIS mapping devices. As well as the changing automobile which may soon park itself. These new technologies can also improve driving and parking for everyone. Along with the urban planning issues of designing communities as walkable and integrating electric vehicles such as GEM into the transportation mix for everyone.
RELEVANT CODES AND STANDARDS
International Building Code - a new code that when adopted by local jurisdictions will cover the entire country. Always check for most recent edition approved by each jurisdiction with every code listed.
BOCA National Building Code
Standard Building Code
Uniform Building Code
National Building Code of Canada
Americans with Disabilities Act
Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board ( firstname.lastname@example.org)
Local Codes such as the City of Chicago - check your local jurisdiction
Local Zoning Ordinances -check your local jurisdiction
Products & Systems
National Parking Association
An advocacy organization for the parking industry.
International Parking Association
An advocacy organization for the parking industry.
Urban Land Institute
American Planning Association
Eno Transportation Foundation
Institute of Transportation Engineers
The Automatic and Mechanical Parking Association
A newly formed association to advance the cause of automatic and mechanical garages.
An advocacy organization for the parking industry.
United States Department of Transportation and State and Local Transportation Agencies
The National Transportation Research Board
Many related industry organizations such the steel, concrete, construction, engineering, transportation and architecture have their own advocacy organizations and web sites with information on parking garages issues.
This is a short list of publications and not at all complete, as this topic has been receiving a great deal of research and interest in the last several years. Please contact all related industry organizations for their most up to date publications for design applications.
The Aesthetics of Parking by T.P. Smith. Chicago , IL : American Planning Association, 1988.
The Dimensions of Parking by the Urban Land Institute and National Parking Association. Washington , D.C. : Urban Land Institute, 2000.
Lots of Parking by John A. Jakle and Keith a. Sculle. Charlottesville , VA : University of Virginia Press , 2004.
Metropolitan Parking Structures: A Survey of Architectural Problems and Solutions by D. Klose. New York : F.A. Praeger, 1965.
Open-Deck Steel Framed Parking Structures-A Design Aid by Emile Troup, P.E. and John Cross, P.E. AISC, 2003.
Parking by Robert Weant and Herbert S. Levinson. Eno Transportation Foundation, 1990.
Parking by G.H. Baker and B. Funaro. New York : Reinhold, 1958.
Parking 101: A Parking Primer by Ronald W. Stehman, Ed. Fredericksburg, VA: International Parking Institute, 2001.
Parking: A Handbook of Environmental Design by J. McCluskey. London : E. & F.N. Spon, 1987.
Parking Selected References Information Packet #327 by the Urban Land Institute. Washington , D.C. : Urban Land Institute, 2000.
Parking Spaces: A Design, Implementation, and Use Manual for Architects Planners and Engineers by Mark Childs. New York : McGraw Hill, 1999.
Parking Structures: Planning Design, Construction, Maintenance, and Repair by A.P. Chrest, M.S. Smith, et al. New York : Van Nostrand Reinhold, 2000.
Parking: The Parking Handbook for Small Communities by J.D. Edwards. Washington D.C. : Institute for Transportation Engineers; National Main Street Center ; National Trust for Historic Preservation, 1994.
Precast Prestressed Concrete Parking Structures: Recommended Practice for Design and Construction by the PCI committee on Parking Structures, and PCI Committee on Parking Marketing & Promotion. Chicago: Precast/Prestressed Concrete Institute, 1997.
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