For the past few years, our industry has been discussing the trend to move back into cities and urban centers. We are seeing mixed-used developments of all sizes pop up from the East Coast to West Coast.
Part of the appeal of having a work-live-play environment is the time saved commuting. Once at their destination, the last thing anyone wants is to walk another 10–15 minutes to reach their office, grocery store, or restaurant. Most of those who live in urban centers still have a vehicle, and these centers have to find an efficient way to accommodate the cars that come with the high volume of people. This remains true even if the cars stay parked for most of the week.
Enter the idea of Automated Garages. Most think that standard ramp garages – either below or above ground – are the only means to accommodate the sheer number of cars at a multimillion square foot project. The reality is that automated garages can provide a better alternative, for multiple reasons.
For starters, developers have the potential to save millions of dollars if they choose an automated garage versus a standard ramp garage. The idea of saving 20–30% in the cost of building an underground garage using automated parking versus a standard ramp garage is, at a minimum, eyebrow-raising. Considering urban or central business district land values can reach $4 million an acre or more means the total amount saved could really add up to significant dollars.
As an example, a project being studied outside Washington, DC is examining whether or not automated parking would be more cost effective than a standard ramp garage. In this particular case, it was determined that an underground garage, designed to service a high-rise apartment building, would cost $75,000 per space, all in. As luck would have it, it was determined that the footprint of the building would need to be reduced due to utility issues unforeseen in the original development plan. The study examined whether or not the parking could be accommodated using an automated parking solution. It was determined that the cost “all in” for the automated system, plus the underground “bathtub” structure, would be $58,000 per space, resulting in a $17,000 per space savings. This equates to an overall savings of 23% from the original $75,000 per space cost, and fit within the reduced available footprint. The ramp garage would not fit in the smaller footprint.
Perhaps the most important benefit of an automated garage is the safety and security it provides. There is a reason many ominous movie scenes take place in a parking garage. From November 2014 to the first week of January 2015, 40 cars were vandalized in a Norfolk, Virginia parking garage. Surveillance cameras in the City-owned garage were still not enough to deter – or catch – those vandals. Scenarios like this simply cannot occur in automated garages.
Automated parking is an alternative that saves money and land, and is much safer and secure. For that reason, it deserves to be examined in both above and below ground garages.