Today, nearly every new high-rise building includes multiple sustainability features and owners of older buildings are increasingly implemeting green retrofits to keep up. But what about parking structures? Often an afterthought in the public’s mind, parking garages are an essential part of almost any high-rise project. In the past, some parking facilities received LEED certification for their occupied spaces or as part of a larger project, but, according to the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), “parking areas themselves are not now, nor have they ever been eligible for LEED-certification.” To address this, the Green Parking Council developed a Green Garage Certification program to align their sustainability efforts with USGBC’s goals.

The Green Parking Council (GPC) realized that if they were to raise the expectation level for sustainable design and operation of parking facilities, there needed to be an industry-specific approach for recognizing “green garages.” In developing the Green Garage Certification program, they drew from the body of knowledge developed through LEED work, while concurrently incorporating parking management, programmatic and technology elements specific to the parking industry.

To further the promotion of Green Garage Certification, the USGBC has signed a memorandum of understanding with the GPC and the International Parking Institute (IPI), the world’s largest parking association.

“Sustainability in parking is integral to building a greener future, not only structurally, but also by shaping transportation networks that support more livable, walkable communities,” said Mahesh Ramanujam, president of the Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI), the certification body for the U.S. Green Building Council’s global LEED green building rating system. “This agreement will also expand the GBCI’s portfolio and mission to recognize excellence in green performance and practice.”

[pullquote]This is an epic moment for parking and a giant leap forward toward a more environmentally and economically sustainable garage of the future.
John Schmid, CEO of Propark[/pullquote]So what make s a parking garage green? Some elements designers, owners and managers are incorporating into parking structures include guidance and cashless payment systems that enable drivers to find and pay for parking without stopping, energy efficient lighting, renewable energy installations, innovative water and stormwater management systems, and electric vehicle (EV) charging stations.

The GPC says that by incorporating sustainable design, technology, programs, and management, high-performance parking facilities lower their operating costs, enhance their value, and boost their revenue. They score points with tenants, patrons, and the community at large by offering improved efficiency and an integrated diversity of mobility options.

In Oakland, California GPC partner ABM, worked with City leaders on an aggressive energy and climate plan goal of reducing energy consumption by 36% by 2020. The City realized that its parking facilities were low-hanging sustainability fruit, so they targeted the City Center West Garage for a high-performance upgrade as well as an opportunity to add EV charging stations.

To achieve the City’s goals of offering EV charging without increasing the garage’s electricity demand, ABM upgraded to high-efficiency lighting with advanced controls that reduced energy use by 45%. Oakland was able to pay for the entire project with its utility cost savings in 2.9 years: “There was no upfront capital required,” explained ABM’s Ken Sapp, “and they were able to contribute a positive cash flow to the existing budget.”

Another example is the 11-story parking structure at 60 West Kinzie Street in Chicago. Developed by Friedman Properties, the Greenway Self-Park, is billed as “Chicago’s first earth friendly parking garage.” Constructed from local and sustainable building materials, the 720 stall garage features wind turbines to generate electricity for exterior lighting along with lighting controls that dim the indoor lights when there’s sufficient sunlight.

Greenway Self Park’s open-air design eliminates the need for a ventilation system, saving energy. The structure incorporates water and power recycling systems, electric car plug-ins and a green roof. The parking structure features EV charging stations and a unique music video system to help remind motorists where their cars are parked.

The USGBC and the parking industry associations will work together to promote the Green Garage Certification program, which applies to both new and existing parking structures. Certification assesses 50 elements of parking facility sustainability, including management practices that maximize performance while minimizing waste; programs encouraging alternate modes of transportation and community engagement; and efficient and sustainable technology and structure design.

“This is a game-changer,” explained John Schmid, CEO of Propark and IPI board member. “Collaborating with the GBCI will result in a multiplier effect, dramatically increasing awareness of sustainable parking design, operations, and management. This is an epic moment for parking and a giant leap forward toward a more environmentally and economically sustainable garage of the future.”