Whitepaper: 10.23.2018

Future-Proof Parking Design

How are today’s parking structure designs transforming and adapting for tomorrow?

— By Fernando Sanchez, McCarthy Integrated Design Director 

santa clara square parking

As population density and technology-driven changes reshape cities, social habits, and the built environment, many developers face uncertainty when it comes to parking goals.

Municipalities and commuters near high-traffic and congested areas have been driving forces in encouraging mass transit and ride-hailing services such as Uber and Lyft. Additionally, the growth in popularity of electric and self-driving vehicles and other new and non-traditional forms of transportation, coupled with declining vehicle ownership, has impacted the demand for new parking spaces.

In anticipation of additional and future changes, parking structure design is transforming and adapting. But how do you prepare for this movement of tomorrow and remain cost effective today?

Here are some strategies for forward-thinking owners to consider with their next parking project.

Designing for the Future

To plan for this shift in parking demand, developers have been outfitting structures with features that allow for varying degrees of flexibility to retrofit later.

Across markets, the most common design responses have been greater floor-to-floor heights, flatter floors, alternate drainage positioning and other elements. These allow for easier repurposing into multifamily, retail, office, and other types of mixed-use spaces.

Parking design features should be evaluated for suitability with the specific project. There is no one-size-fits-all solution. For example, a university parking structure may infuse more bike parking or commuter service areas, whereas retail parking may incorporate drop-off and pickup zones.

Not all repurposing strategies are the same, and end-user goals should be evaluated so the appropriate features are included in early designs and implemented during construction.

Design-Build Delivery

A good parking designer, teamed with an experienced and specialized contractor, can help developers prioritize and decide on features that reconcile needs for current and future use.

One way this can be accomplished is through a design-build delivery method, a model quickly gaining popularity. A design-build project creates an early relationship between the architect and contractor as one entity managing the design, cost, and scheduling.

A skilled team collaborates to prioritize goals and evaluate appropriate premiums for the project. Owners understand cost implications to make more informed decisions, while leaving the day-to-day management and coordination to the rest of the team.

With this approach, owners are afforded many benefits and best practices, drawing from their partners’ collective experience and knowledge.

Mitigate Cost Without Sacrificing Quality

Given the myriad of future-proofing solutions that allow for flexibility in parking, it is imperative to evaluate the implications to overall project goals and budget.

Parking design and construction requires a unique approach and specific project type knowledge with a deep understanding of the cost implications associated with future-proofing features. Early onboarding makes it easier for all parties to evaluate features and strategies with an in-depth understanding of the trade-offs and impact.

This, in turn, allows for faster use of reliable information to make decisions and move a project forward. Owners benefit from coupling design and construction issues early in a project — especially when the various features evaluated involve very specific parking design responses. Each of these responses imply a level of quality that then is evaluated from a cost standpoint.

Question Your Contractor

Selecting the right contractor is a critical and somewhat daunting decision, especially in the construction of a parking building. Ask a contractor these questions to help inform your decision when working through a parking solution:

  • Do you self-perform? A self-perform model allows for control over budget and schedule and sets the standard for quality on day one. Owners should know if their contractor is doing the work themselves or relying on subcontractors.
  • Do you own your equipment and forming systems? This can affect the timeline and/or budget of the project.
  • What is the composition of your workforce? Inquire about the number of carpenters, laborers, finishers, etc. staffed to ensure a lack of manpower will not be an issue.
  • What is your backlog, and how will that affect my project? Owners should know if their contractor has the manpower to finish the project.
  • Can I tour your other recently completed or in-progress parking projects? This allows insight into site safety and how the teams function.
  • How much experience do you have with the designer? There are a limited number of qualified, experienced designers, and experience with collaboration is critical.
  • Have you designed and/or built anything of similar type, size and/or locality as my project? Hiring a contractor experienced with your kind of project can help mitigate potential mistakes.

Parking is an unforgiving building type, yet incredibly necessary for many projects. Being aware of the various trends and having an experienced project team makes a huge difference in ensuring the success and longevity of your facility.

Article originally appeared in PARKING Magazine, Aug. 2018.

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