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As densely populated cities become starved for space, accommodating the demand for convenient, safe parking continues to be a significant urban design challenge. In reality, parking takes up one-third of the land in U.S cities, and there are about eight parking spaces for every car nationwide. The real reason why people spend an average of 17 hours a year circling up and down congested city streets in search of a parking spot is because of unorganized and inefficient city planning. Traditional building codes and zoning laws typically require one parking space for every apartment unit, prioritizing cars over additional housing, parks and walkable neighborhoods. These mandates result in increased real estate prices, long construction times, rising air pollution and carbon emissions, as well as dwindling urban green space.

Many cities have proposed initiatives to “give streets back to people,” including New York’s 25x25 challenge, which aims to repurpose 25% of designated car space by 2025. However, today, urban infrastructure challenges remain, and 71% of tenants will not sign a lease without parking amenities.

Considering the average car is resting 95% of the time, green initiatives are an increasing concern and tenants want the peace of mind that they will always find a spot, the solution to parking demand is not excavating more land. Instead, city planners must lean into smart city technology and either retrofit spaces that are already in use, or implement sustainable greenfield parking solutions. The answer to city parking problems is the adoption of automated parking systems (APS).

Fit every car and more

Concerns about traffic congestion and housing affordability have sparked nationwide conversations about minimum parking ordinances. Parking lots and garages take up a massive amount of space, and extra costs trickle down to incoming tenants. Communities want to end these regulations and leverage green space to benefit people over cars. On the other hand, those in favor of zoning regulations argue that without additional lots, there is increased competition for public parking and more time spent searching for a spot. Both sides highlight that urban space is finite, and developers must maneuver buildings in tight spaces in addition to providing enough parking space for everybody.

With an APS, space optimization benefits are not divided. Ramps, stairwells and cruising spaces are eliminated in favor of automated lifts, and vehicles are stored in compact, private spaces. As a result, the same amount of cars can be stored in 60% less space than conventional parking garages. Mechanized systems enable developers to maximize every inch of vertical architecture and increase capacity beyond what traditional parking spaces can provide. The additional space can then be transformed into housing units or commercial spaces, raise property profits and benefit buyers and tenants.

Save energy and resources

Driving up and down parking garage ramps is not only frustrating to patrons, but causes significant environmental impacts. Each level calls for more building materials, excavation, lighting and ventilation. Utilities, repairs and maintenance expenses, in addition to the air pollution produced by vehicles, add up to a substantial amount of energy and resources. However, these factors are only involved when garages are designed with people in mind.

With an APS, nobody drives into the garage. In fact, with an automated system, there’s no need for the car to be running at all. According to a study by EEA Consultants, Inc., an environmental engineering firm, automated parking systems reduce volatile organic compounds released into the air by a significant margin. Carbon monoxide was reduced by 77%, nitrogen oxides by 81%, carbon dioxide by 83% and fuel savings averaged 83%. By depending on robotics, inefficient idling is removed entirely.

Minimizing materials, emissions and air pollution supports green initiatives that are well known today, but it is also crucial for building designers to plan for the sustainability needs of tomorrow. Take electric vehicles (EV), for example. In 2022, EVs accounted for 5.6% of the total auto market and are projected to rapidly increase in popularity over the next few years. The more EVs on the road, the higher demand for electric charging stations. Therefore, whether retrofitting an existing building or starting a greenfield project, developers must keep EV needs as a top priority in parking locations. With the right planning and efficient equipment, more cars can be charged with less infrastructure than in a conventional parking garage. Instead of waiting on a person to unplug their car like at a traditional EV charging station, some APS providers have the ability to automatically connect a DCFC to EVs in an APS and can move several different EVs to the DCFC in a given period—allowing multiple EVs to be charged using a single charger and saving on charging infrastructure costs.

Luxury and safety

Maximizing car capacity and implementing environmentally conscious technologies are two of the most important logistical benefits of an APS. Aside from the behind-the-scenes time and cost advantages, automated parking is enticing to buyers and tenants. Comfort, safety and luxury are huge factors for consumers considering one property versus the next. The global automated parking market is expected to reach $66.6 billion by 2030, indicating the technology is growing in availability, and developers are taking note of the value this amenity brings to real estate. Parking congestion is not disappearing anytime soon. The option of driving up to a luxurious single garage-like entrance and letting robotics take care of the rest will simply get more renters through the door.

Automated parking systems also provide safety and security that public streets and garages do not. One in five car accidents happen in parking garages due to distracted or aggressive drivers, poor design, tight vehicle maneuvering and more. Additionally, in the United States, vehicle theft occurs every 43.8 seconds, most commonly in parking lots. Vandalism, robbery and car damages are eliminated entirely when vehicles are stored in private, automatic, mechanic structures that will store and retrieve cars to patrons in the same well-lit, surveilled location.

Cities around the globe are embracing smart technology to alleviate urban design parking challenges. Rather than participating in the over-consumption of time, money and resources, it’s time for city planners to reinvent conventional parking strategies by leveraging digital tools. The future of parking is happening now, and tenants and buyers are more likely to sign a lease with the most sustainable, safe and luxury building available.


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