Environmentally sustainable initiatives are not going anywhere, so it is time for cities and businesses to look at ways to improve every aspect possible, including parking and parking structures.
It is uncommon to use “sustainable” and “parking garage” in the same sentence, however, as vehicles evolve and electric cars continue to take over the roads, the businesses and accessories that cater to cars and trucks must stay relevant and evolve as well.
An obvious example, as a result of rapidly changing technology, would be the electric car charging stations that are beginning to appear in most parking structures. Having easily accessible charging stations in public parking areas encourages the use of more electric cars. But, what else can be done? Fortunately, the future of parking is green. Green parking lots are emerging around the world with the dedication to become more environmentally and community friendly.
Environmental Sustainability in Los Angeles
Parking structures are usually associated with concrete buildings in busy cities, like Los Angeles, also referred to as “the concrete jungle”. LA is working hard to become a green city, with government initiatives like LA’s Green New Deal. This plan of action includes short and long term goals for a green economy, such as increasing the use of renewable energy resources, moving towards an all-electric public transit system, and simply planting more trees. LA’s progressive residents also advocate for green solutions in their city, but unfortunately, they are also one of the top cities in the country for high volumes of traffic. With all of the incoming traffic from commuters and tourists, these cars require a lot of space to be parked once they arrive.
Los Angeles’ Industry Leaders in Sustainable Parking: Joe’s Auto Parks
Within Los Angeles, there is a public garage that has connected parking with the community and the environment. Joe’s Auto Parks is leading the industry in LA with a nature-focused structure that addresses some of LA’s environmental and community concerns.
With plenty of properties across the city (over 90 locations), Joe’s Auto Parks partnered with the LA Community Garden Council to provide land and infrastructure for the Spring Street Community Garden. Urban gardening is a growing trend that has brought nature back into a number of densely developed cities. The Spring Street Community Garden initiative allows locals to come together to grow fresh, organic food right in the midst of the city. Other environmental initiatives at Joe’s lots include waterless detailing services and EV charging stations (visit joesautoparks.com for more details and to locate charging stations).
Joe’s Auto Parks also supports a number of local community outreach programs, and some of the company’s lots feature breathtaking art murals. When considering local businesses that support the environment, a parking lot company would not likely come to mind, but Joe’s, in its 60thyear of serving the Los Angeles community, is not your traditional parking company.
Green Parking Solutions
Across the country, other companies are working towards similar goals of green parking solutions. Watry Design thinks outside of the box for creative ways to include sustainability in their garage designs. The design team has thought of a number of ways to improve lots, whether it is simply adding bike lockers to encourage those who choose to commute by bicycle instead of by car, or adding solar panels to the rooftop. Some Watry Design lots even maximize natural light by planning the layout of an entirely new building in relation to the direction that the sunlight will shine, which will reduce the use of electricity for artificial lighting.
Like Joe’s Auto Parks, this company goes beyond an environmental focus to also incorporate the community, in this case by adding welcoming spaces such as benches and courtyards or displaying public art. Their industry-leading ideas consider efficient traffic direction, which aims to reduce the time that cars are idling and creating emissions – because every bit helps. Watry even goes as far as using the rooftop level for sports turf.
Smarter Parking Garages
Parksmart points out the fact that, in order to accommodate so many vehicles, parking has become one of the top uses for land in US cities. Parksmart is a rating system for smarter parking garages, offering direction for parking structures to become more sustainable and considerate of efficiency. For example, Parksmart recently worked with an existing parking structure at Yorkdale Mall in Toronto, Canada. Through new green planning, the Yorkdale structure was able to add fourteen charging stations for electric vehicles, specific carpool parking areas, complimentary air pumps for cars and bicycles, energy-efficient lighting systems with motion control, and rainwater collection that can be used for the mall’s landscaping and for cleaning purposes. The garage was also designed with easy access to bicycle routes and public transit, in order to encourage alternative transportation and commuting.
Other engineered design solutions include more environmentally friendly alternatives to asphalt and planting greenery within and around the lot. Parking structures with multiple levels are already a step in the right direction, as the buildings minimize the amount of land space required to park a large number of vehicles. Collecting rain and storm water can help to reduce water pollution by preventing run-off water that is contaminated with oils, solutions and other chemicals from vehicles.
The Future Looks Green
It is inspiring to see so many unique approaches to green parking. The costs are high for parking companies to add sustainable solutions, but it is an important part of corporate social responsibility for those that are willing to make a positive impact in the environment. There is hope for green parking as more lots implement forward thinking into their business practices.