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Keep Parking Operation Costs In Check

Posted on 11/25/2014 10:59 AM by Jon Martens

One of the biggest challenges facing parking owners and operators is how to keep operations costs in check.  Every dollar spent unnecessarily is a dollar lost.  The question is, how do you keep costs down while continuing to provide a safe, convenient, and pleasant parking experience to drivers? The key to cost reduction is understanding the most significant drivers of increased costs, and while every facility’s parking operation is different, most share common expenses that can be decreased.

At most parking facilities, the biggest cost leader is labor. Fortunately, the technology revolution that’s transforming the parking industry is permitting owners and operators to run their facilities more efficiently, permitting them to reduce personnel costs without impairing the quality of service.

Switching from a cashiered payment system to an automated system such as pay-on-foot, can reduce the need for revenue control staff at exits. Some owners are taking this even further by switching to an entirely cash-free operation requiring all transactions to be by credit card. Using technology to reduce or eliminate staff can save owners thousands of dollars in salary, benefits, and insurance costs. These approaches can also minimize loss due to theft by cashiers – a common concern with any cash-based business.

Maintenance is another important cost leader. It can be very expensive to conduct routine cleaning and upkeep, structural repairs, and parking access and revenue control (PARCS) equipment care. Routine maintenance can and should include cleaning surfaces, light painting, re-lamping, cleaning offices and public areas, restriping parking stalls and driving lanes, and the upkeep of landscaping and plants. On-going structural maintenance should include regular inspections by an engineer specializing in parking structure restoration as well as sealing to protect against moisture penetration, expansion joint maintenance, and to address spalling.

Equipment maintenance is also essential. If PARCS equipment goes down, operations become less efficient, which can cost owners money. Other equipment that requires regular maintenance includes escalators, elevators, and maintenance vehicles.

While maintenance is typically one of the more costly operations expenses, it is critically important. Facilities that are not properly maintained can suffer from concrete degradation or failure, and will need to be replaced or repaired much sooner than they otherwise would. Owners and operators who cut back on maintenance often find that their operational costs actually rise significantly because of the need to undertake unplanned and unbudgeted repairs.

However, there are some maintenance elements that can actually provide cost savings. One of the best is lighting, which typically represents the largest utility cost in a parking facility, but also provides the most potential for savings. Lighting technologies are constantly changing, with LED, induction, and florescent lighting providing much better visibility at dramatically lower consumption rates and longer life cycles over traditional metal-halide or high pressure sodium fixtures.  

The savings can be so significant that owners who retrofit their facilities can generally recoup their investment in as little as three to four years depending on the lighting solution. Modern LED lighting systems also have a significantly longer lamp life, greatly reducing the cost of ownership.  Upgrading the lighting system can also provide another important benefit: promoting safety and security within the structure by improving visibility.

Smart fixtures that recognize activity and adjust the lighting level based on the presence of people or vehicles can also increase savings. This permits illumination to automatically be reduced or increased as needed. This can be particularly useful in sub-grade structures, which must be illuminated 24 hours a day.

If an operation is outsourced to a third party for daily management of the parking, the management relationship may also provide opportunities to reduce costs. Upon the conclusion of a management contract, it’s always good to test the waters by issuing an RFP to ensure that you are getting a fair deal. To reduce the personal effort and obtain an apples-to-apples comparison of the proposals, it is recommended that the process be done by a parking consultant with experience with this process. Experience shows that considerable savings in expenses are obtainable even when the current operator is retained.

There’s no reason for parking owners to spend more than necessary to operate their facilities. Owners who understand which aspects of their parking operations are most costly, and how to reduce costs in those areas can save thousands of dollars every year.

Jon Martens is a parking consultant with Walker Parking Consultants. He can be reached at jon.martens@walkerparking.com.

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4 Ways Energy Recovery Ventilation Can Improve Your Building's Indoor Environment

Posted on 11/21/2014 9:00 AM by Kenneth Paul Drews

People are the backbone of any business and are ultimately responsible for the success and development of the organization. A recent EPA study states that a healthy, productive workforce is an essential component to a successful business, so therefore, creating a healthy work environment for people must be a primary focus of building owners and facility managers. 

The indoor environment is comprised of many elements, from lighting to layout, design to decor, and thermal comfort to indoor air quality (IAQ); they all play an instrumental role in facilitating a fruitful work environment.

Fresh air plays a vital role in maintaining healthy and comfortable indoor environments. Building codes require a frequent exchange of stale indoor air with fresh outdoor air to lower the level of all indoor pollutants. Without a constant exchange of air, indoor pollutants such as formaldehyde, airborne viruses, humidity, and other chemicals build to unhealthy levels that can trigger asthma, headaches, fatigue, and general discomfort. 

In the past, building owners and facilities managers reduced fresh air levels to save on energy costs at the expense of health. This reduction is no longer necessary due to the increased availability and code requirements for Energy Recovery Ventilation (ERV). ERVs reduce fresh air ventilation costs by up to 80% by using recycled energy from building exhaust air. In addition to lowering operating expenses, ERVs help control humidity and often pay for themselves by lowering heating and air conditioning capital equipment costs.

Without an energy recovery solution in place, air that is treated for temperature and humidity will simply leave a building. The work that has already been done to heat, cool, humidify or dehumidify the space will need to be repeated for the incoming fresh air multiple times per hour. Implementing an ERV solution helps building owners meet ventilation code, lower operating costs, and improve indoor air quality. 

When looking to maintain or improve a buildings’ indoor environment with an ERV, keep these benefits in mind:

1) Humidity – On warm humid days, humidity contained in fresh outdoor air often overpowers the air conditioning system and creates a challenge for facility managers to keep tenants comfortable. If humidity is a concern, select an ERV that utilizes an enthalpy transfer device, such as an energy recovery wheel, to overcome his challenge. Energy recovery wheels remove up to 80 percent of the humidity from the fresh air before it contacts the air conditioning coil; the result is air that is cool, comfortably dry, and does not contribute to the formation of mold and mildew.

2) Productivity – According to the EPA, a school’s indoor environment can have a significant impact on children’s learning and productivity. Studies have shown links between poor IAQ and children’s health problems, reduced performance scores and increased absenteeism. Similarly, the productivity of a company’s workforce is dramatically impacted when forced to work in a less-than-ideal environment. ERVs deliver affordable fresh air to ensure a healthy and productive environment without the energy penalty historically attributed to fresh air.

3) Health – With half of all illnesses attributable to indoor airborne contaminants, the EPA has declared IAQ a public health priority. Federal, state, and local building codes have followed suit in mandating minimum outdoor air ventilation rates based upon the size and function of buildings. ERV is the only ventilation strategy that can simultaneously reduce the levels of all indoor pollutants for health and reduce the size and operating cost of the HVAC system.

4) Cost savings – It is important to note that including an ERV in your HVAC design provides substantial savings, both up front and over time. A facility manager can expect minimal or no added first cost to installing an ERV in a retrofit or new construction project. Additionally, first cost may be offset with energy recovery incentives offered by many utilities and local, state, and federal governments. 

Kenneth Paul Drews is the marketing communications manager at Airxchange. He can be reached at KennethDrews@airxchange.com.

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