4 ways parking garages are prepping for fewer cars

Developers are planning for a high-tech future that requires greater flexibility.

October 05, 2021

The rise of ride-hailing, autonomous vehicles, and micro-mobility devices such as electric scooters are set to lower rates of car ownership among younger generations.

This, alongside increasing electric vehicle ownership, has building owners and architects thinking about parking garages and how they will need to adapt.

“The forecast demand for electric vehicles is increasing,” says Mike Bammel, Managing Director and National Practice Lead, Renewable Energy, JLL. “Existing properties may not have capacity or capabilities to handle it.”

Read on for four ways garages around the world are already starting to change. 

They aren’t just for cars

Parking garages are being built for a future where people drive less, which means designing structures that can support the possibility to be turned into something else, like retail space or a theater.

For instance, a garage in AvalonBay Communities Inc.’s 475-unit multifamily complex in Los Angeles’s Arts District will have higher-than-average ceilings; flat floors, unlike the slanted foundation you find in most parking garages; and elevators and staircases are in the middle of the structure, not on the perimeter. The project is due to be completed in 2022.

In Shenzhen, Kohn Pedersen is designing a complex with underground parking areas that could be converted into retail space.

The Cincinnati headquarters of data analytics firm 84.51° was designed with three floors of above-ground parking that can be converted into office space.

They are laboratories for parking tech

In order to prepare parking garages for the future, new technology needs to be tested. Current structures are already part of the experiment.

Inside the Detroit Smart Parking Lab, which opened in August, mobility and smart infrastructure companies test parking-related mobility, logistics and electric vehicle charging technologies, aided by grants from the state of Michigan.

Enterprise, the car rental firm, will be testing automated valet parking technology that can improve the rental car return process in the Detroit space. 


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They include EV charging stations 

In 2020, global electric car sales share rose 70 percent to a record 5 percent, according to the International Energy Agency.

And there are estimates that electric adoption could rise 25 percent annually over the next five years, says Bammel. There are tax benefits in some areas for building charging stations to meet that demand. AvalonBay has been expanding the number of electric-car charging stations in its West Hollywood and Hollywood buildings, as are many multifamily landlords.

“Coordinating with infrastructure teams to ensure they have capabilities to execute and deliver sustainability options will be key in rolling this programming out successfully and in time to match the demand,” Bammel says.

In California, tech company EVmatch is installing 120 electric vehicle chargers at apartment complexes by way of a grant from the California Energy Commission (CEC). The company plans to target properties in poorer communities where residents typically face major barriers to owning and charging EVs.

They have routes for autonomous fleets

Many building owners are envisioning their current parking garages as future transportation hubs for fleets of driverless cabs.

The Kohn Pedersen complex in Shenzhen, for example, has an elevated loop that could be dedicated to autonomous vehicle drop-offs and pickups.

A 2018 rendering from the National Parking Association in the U.S. shows a garage with stacked parking for autonomous vehicles and separate entry lanes for cars driven by humans. The absence of drivers allows them to squeeze in more tightly than typical cars.

“It could seem far away, but it really isn’t,” Bammel says. “It’s better if building owners prepare to be adaptable to the changes as they come.”

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