What Happens If Parking Structures Become Obsolete?

An architect makes the case for future-proofing new parking garages so they can easily shift to other uses in a future with fewer cars.

1 minute read

August 5, 2018, 9:00 AM PDT

By Philip Rojc @PhilipRojc

Empty Parking Garage

Comrade Foot / flickr

Megan Ridgeway's hunch is that "our cultural shift to ride sharing, autonomous vehicles, and alternative transportation will result in a permanent paradigm shift in urban planning." Whether that means fewer cars on the road is hard to say, but if driving does decline, what will become of America's half-billion parking spaces?

Parking garages, Ridgeway argues, should be "future-proofed" upon construction. If and when a carless future arrives, they'll be easy to convert to alternative uses, including housing. "Specifically, the most important design strategies for such structures are flat plates and adequate space between floors. Adaptive reuse requires a level base rather than the steep slopes that many garages have, so designing flat floors on every level is critical."

In this case, future-proofing shouldn't be too onerous an expense: "the up-front cost is virtually the same as traditional parking garages because they aren't as expensive to build as an actual office or apartment building." The real question is whether individual municipalities will help or hinder their implementation.

Ridgeway cites Denver as one place where developers are pioneering future-proof parking, specifically at the city's World Trade Center.

Monday, July 23, 2018 in Fast Company

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