In decades past, parking spaces have been a symbol of a car-dependent culture of urban utility and suburban sprawl. The line in the song is not “they saved paradise and put up a parking lot.”
But times change and concepts evolve. While parking lots aren’t going away any time soon, innovations in technologies and best practices can help us plot a path to our green goals through these spaces. By rethinking parking, property owners can establish a roadmap to sustainability and environmental progress.
Oftentimes, sustainability depends on efficient and creative use of space, and it just so happens that parking lots are nothing but space. And that space can be filled with more than just cars.
The trick is to look at every inch of parking space on one’s property as a potential source of good for the environment. Property managers can turn parking lots into sources of renewable energy by covering rooftops, awnings, walls and even whole unused spaces with solar panels.
And solar isn’t the only source of renewable energy: buildings with good wind flow access, like multistory or rooftop parking lots, can be crowned with windmills for electricity generation.
Sustainable energy generation is just the beginning when it comes to greening one’s parking space. It is also possible to take the “green” literally and let plant life occupy any available space. Plants are a great source of small-scale biodiversity, even in urban areas, and provide some of that precious oxygen we all need. Parking lots can be lined with trees while vines hang from awnings and perennials cluster around the walls.
This step also beautifies the parking area for residents and visitors and leans into the urban garden aesthetic sure to be popular as green initiatives take over developed spaces. Just make sure the plants chosen are not big water consumers, or gains will be lost in water waste (unless you want to get truly fancy with greywater reuse).
Speaking of water, parking lots also make excellent reclamation facilities for precious resources like water. By building sluices and other collection infrastructure into an open space like a parking facility, property owners can save gallons and gallons of water a year in rainfall, condensation and more. Lower traffic areas at ground level can be renovated with porous pavement which will return rainwater directly to the soil. Such upgrades can be pricey but may cover their own costs in efficient stormwater management.
Of course, none of this solves the core problem of which parking lots are just a byproduct: massive automobile dependency, especially in the U.S. Property owners can encourage alternate sources of transportation by turning unused parking spaces into bicycle spaces or even pickup and drop-off for bike or scooter rental apps. Properties can also provide shuttle service to nearby public transit stations and services to help occupants arrange carpools.
We can take solace in the fact that hybrid and electrical cars are on the upswing, especially in response to rising prices at the pump. Property owners who want to encourage the use of electric and plug-in-hybrid vehicles would do well to install EV charging stations in as many parking spaces as possible. Governments all the way up to the federal level are offering strong incentives to install such upgrades, making it easy and affordable in many places to help occupants go electric if they can’t give up cars altogether.
Reducing car usage also reduces the number of cars that actually use a parking space, thereby giving properties more flexibility and space to install power sources, plants, recycling hubs, and more. Smart parking apps are a great way to keep track of just how many cars actually use a property’s parking resources, and guide visitors to the spaces that property owners would prefer they use, making room for sustainability resources. Smarter, technology-driven creation and use of space can help prove that parking lots really can save paradise.
About the Author:
Edward Moon is a Growth Marketer at Spacer Technologies, a technology company that enables property owners to discover new revenue sources through innovative solutions that leverage unused spaces.