Sustainable parking systems save space, increase energy efficiency, and reduce the environmental impacts of parking garages. Because of these incentives, municipalities and private actors will spend less money on overhead costs like electricity and gas, thus enabling municipal and private actors to not only protect the environment, but reduce long-term costs too.

Atlanta’s zoo parking lot, Green Park Gateway, was in need of major renovations, so they took the opportunity to develop a sustainable structure capable of meeting increased demands. The 8-acre lot was transformed into 1,000 parking spots, with a 2.5-acre green roof, terraced areas, water features, and 9 acres of green space. The new Green Park Gateway was the first project to achieve ParkSmart, LEED, and SITES certifications. By using ParkSmart as a measuring system, Green Park Gateway achieved this massive renovation close to the cost of “normal construction,” while positively impacting society and the environment.

Similar to LEED certification, the United States Green Building Council (USGBC) has developed ParkSmart certification. ParkSmart is a rating system that incorporates elements of “management, sustainable programs, technology, infrastructure design, and innovative approach” to encourage environmentally conscious parking operations. Through this voluntary program, ParkSmart awards points on a ranking system based on the number of sustainable practices utilized. Some of the sustainable practices listed are recycling programs, energy-efficient lighting, carshare programs, and renewable energy usage. For example, if at least 75% of the energy used is on-site renewable energy, you will get 12 points, but if only five to twenty-five percent of the energy used is on-site renewable energy, you will only get 6 points. By reaching specified thresholds of points, parking structures can qualify for different levels of certification––Pioneer, Bronze, Silver, or Gold.

Municipalities should wield their state-delegated land use authority to incorporate ParkSmart Certification in their code. Including ParkSmart Certification requirements will enable municipalities to effectively plan, develop, and operate to increase overall sustainability through their data-driven point ranking system. A few municipalities are leading the way, using ParkSmart to achieve their sustainability goals.

Chamblee, Georgia has adopted Green Building Council’s Green Garage Certification program, now called ParkSmart. The city requires all new privately constructed parking garages with at least 20,000 square feet of gross floor area, and all municipal parking structures to obtain ParkSmart certification. Certificates of Occupancy and building permits are withheld until applicants produce documentation of their ParkSmart certification from the Green Building Council.

St. Paul, Minnesota has also included ParkSmart within their municipal code to promote health and welfare through environmental sustainability. St. Paul has included ParkSmart certification within their “Sustainable Building Standard”. All new parking structure constructions and major renovations must reach the Silver or Gold ParkSmart Certification Standard. City funding is conditional on attaining the Silver or Gold ParkSmart standard for all new parking structure constructions and major renovations.

Grand Blanc, Michigan has developed an ordinance seeking to become more sustainable by employing more environmentally conscious practices, to connect the town to the natural environment. Within their design standards, Grand Blanc “strongly encourages” proponents of parking structures to seek Green Garage Certification, i.e. ParkSmart Certification.  By including ParkSmart and other sustainable provisions, Grand Blanc aims to integrate energy efficiency, incorporate natural materials, and improve water usage.

In addition to utilizing their state-delegated land use authority to regulate the private development of parking infrastructure, municipalities can also ensure ParkSmart is incorporated into projects they initiate. By committing to sustainable parking practices in this way, the public sector is agreeing to take on more risk, and higher costs, in the short term to attract more private capital and interest for the medium-to-long term for other projects. Municipalities can demonstrate the feasibility and benefits of sustainable parking practices in this way.

Several quasi-county agencies and institutions have included ParkSmart in their Request for Proposal (RFP) build requirements. The Revenue Authority of Prince George’s County, Maryland has included a ParkSmart requirement in their RFP qualification guide. In the development of Regional Medical Center Largo, the Revenue Authority requested that the parking structure reach the bronze level of ParkSmart certification. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Redevelopment Authority has released an RFP for a new parking garage with the goal of promoting sustainable development and green building practices. To reach this goal, the Redevelopment Authority is requiring all proposed parking structures to be ParkSmart certification eligible.

Several public institutions have developed RFPs with SmartPark requirements as part of their selection process. University of California, Riverside has included a provision of a minimum ParkSmart rating of Silver for the development of a new parking Structure in their RFP document. Penn State has also elicited an RFP for building a new parking structure, with environmental impact as part of the conceptual design standard. ParkSmart is referenced throughout the document, suggesting the school would prefer a proposal that includes ParkSmart certification. The University of California, Davis’s anticipated new parking structure is requiring all projects submitted to be ParkSmart rated.

Overall, including ParkSmart Certification as a requirement for future parking structure builds and major parking structure renovations will enable municipalities to save energy and space, effectively increasing overall sustainability through an easy-to-manage data-driven system.

This article is part of a series from the Land Use Law Center that explores how local governments can implement Climate Resilient Development (CRD) as defined in the Sixth Assessment Report of the IPCC. CRD requires innovative reform of land use planning and regulation by local governments. The series presents and analyzes numerous local laws and policies capable of adapting to and mitigating climate change to create equitable and sustainable neighborhoods, achieving “sustainable development for all.” 

Author: Lauren Lynam, 1L Land Use Scholar