A Guide to the Different Types of Commercial Parking Structures

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Commercial parking structures have long been an essential consideration in building construction. It’s been over a century since the first multilevel ramp systems were introduced and drove a chain of further design developments that have linked lots to commercial premises.

Considering which of the different types of parking structures will provide visitors and staff with the easiest access to your facility should be a top priority. Poor design can have a serious effect on how your business is perceived and even how it operates. 

This guide will cover the various types of parking facilities, how each of them works, and the right team to call to make them a reality.

The Basics of Parking Lot Design

The different types of commercial parking structures are all grounded in a few universal design elements. Key considerations include paving materials used (typically asphalt) and proximity to the commercial premises, as the closer the parking lot is, the happier everyone will be. Parking spaces must always be clearly delineated, and the whole lot must be 100% safe for vehicles and foot traffic.

The last consideration is exposure to the elements, which can affect even covered parking structures. The different types of commercial parking fall into one of the following categories:

1. Parking Lots

A parking lot is the most common type of parking facility used by commercial premises. These are open areas of pavement marked with yellow or white lines so customers and staff can park safely, but they are generally open for anyone to use. Some parking lots with high traffic or connected to popular events will operate paid models that employ gates to control access.

2. Parking Garages

These are the next most common type of commercial parking found in many cities and towns. Parking garages are covered structures with layouts in a few designs:

Single-Level Garage 

These are closest to regular parking lots, with the difference being better protection from the elements. Single levels operate best in areas with lower traffic.

Multi-level Garage

 This type of parking handles higher traffic areas such as those connected to large businesses. They may also be shared spaces supporting the traffic from multiple commercial premises. Ramps or lifts to move cars from one level to another are common in this type of garage.

Underground Garage 

parking garage standing water

Sufficient space aboveground isn’t always possible when it comes to building a parking lot. This is when underground designs are the best choice. Cities are the common place to find this layout, because surface building room is often non-existent there.

The option that is right for your building will depend on many factors such as cost, traffic patterns, and available space. That means having a clear understanding of your operations will go a long way toward helping you determine which type of garage will be best.

3. Street Parking

The rarity and high premium of building space in metropolitan areas come into play again here. Street parking involves designating parking spaces directly outside the premises by laying out squares one after the other. These spaces usually require customers to parallel park to make use of the area.

4. Automated/Robotic Parking Systems

Automated parking systems can guide drivers directly to a designated starting point before taking care of the rest. Robotic systems can move vehicles either horizontally or vertically to the next available spot. There’s no need to overbuild in terms of space because people don’t have to get in and out of their vehicles. This tackles a growing urban problem as America’s car count continues to rise.

These summaries cover the structural elements of today’s different types of parking. There’s a race going on behind the scenes, however, which is gradually influencing the designs being chosen and how they’re being publicly perceived.

5 Ways Concrete Is Catching Up to Asphalt

There are many good reasons to go with an asphalt parking lot, the most popular choice in America. Concrete lots may be in the minority, but they’re trending upward due to many positive factors. These built-in advantages will see concrete gaining increasing public approval and are likely to make them the dominant type of parking lot in the years to come.

1. A Greener Environmental Profile

Concrete has the lowest carbon footprint for parking lots over their life cycle. The materials required to make it are readily available. Concrete is emissions-free, easy to recycle, and has a low toxicity with a highly efficient heat profile. This last bonus prevents the increase of heat islands, which are environmentally damaging in urban and suburban areas.

2. A Rugged Load-Bearing Capacity

Concrete stands up extremely well to the elements and can handle heavy moving traffic and resting loads more efficiently. This is a big plus when it comes to other weight factors such as snow, soil, and other debris that can easily punch holes in and around parking lots during maintenance and development operations.

3. Versatility in Design, Application, and Aesthetic

Modern concrete lots can be much more than a gray expanse. A little imagination can see your lot and associated extruded curb installations rendered in eye-catching shapes and colors that don’t sacrifice functionality.

4. Concrete Can Light Up Your Lot

Concrete has a much higher reflectivity than other parking lot paving materials. Overhead lighting in both open and covered parking structures can be reduced as a result, leading to lower energy costs. Better-illuminated spaces also promote safety while being more attractive to visitors.

5. A Lasting Return on Investment

Concrete offers a dollar-for-dollar advantage over time against other materials due to higher durability, greater energy efficiency, and lower maintenance costs. Annual cleanings and joint sealings are minimally disruptive and won’t heavily affect a parking lot’s functionality (and your business’s bottom line).

No business wants inadequate commercial parking facilities regardless of the design they’ve settled on. Working with an experienced structural team creates a successful lot that’s built on the principles of durability, mobility, efficiency, and safety.

Common Oversights in Commercial Parking Structures

multi level parking garage

First-class parking lot maintenance and well-defined spaces aren’t the only factors contributing to the safe operation of a commercial parking structure. Every type of parking, whether open lot or garage, must incorporate many other elements to protect their customers, staff, and reputation, such as:

  • Parking lot drainage is a vital but often overlooked consideration. Lots can become moisture logged, leaving them vulnerable to erosion, vehicle skidding, and slip-and-fall accidents. Standing water can also hold runoff that carries vehicle fuels, making it hazardous to health and structural integrity.
  • Every type of parking lot requires strict adherence to local and state building codes. Parking lots affect public spaces, and many parties must be involved from the beginning. Getting the proper permits and permissions ensures a smooth construction.
  • Extruded paving is not a “one size fits all” investment. Parking lots can be subjected to wear from vehicles that vary greatly in size and weight. Badly designed commercial lots don’t make allowances for this and install paving unfit to handle every contingency.
  • Designing a new commercial parking lot takes a triple-tiered perspective. Plans (especially for covered parking structures) must consider past vehicle types, current models, and any trending or impending vehicle designs that may visit in the future.
  • Commercial parking lots aren’t islands. Their initial design and construction must consider the surrounding vehicle and foot traffic from streets, buildings, and other lots.
  • Lighting and ventilation are important elements in covered parking structures where natural light struggles and toxic fumes build up. Concrete aids illumination, while proper structural planning will allow for better natural airflow.
  • The local environment is a major consideration that some commercial parking projects forget. Rainfall, aridity, and snow/ ice chemical treatments can all wear on the walls, roof, and ground layout of a lot.

There is a lot to be considered before a commercial parking structure even becomes a blueprint. Getting it safely from the drawing board or maintaining an existing lot takes an expert team. The pros can provide the experience and perspective necessary to cover every possible contingency. 

Contact Limitless Paving and Concrete for a Superior Parking Structure

concrete parking lot

Selecting the right type of parking lot or caring for the one you have is mission-critical and dictated by your operation’s unique situation. An expert team can ensure that your structure gets a commercial parking design tailored directly to its unique needs. Contact Limitless Paving & Concrete for all your asphalt and concrete paving, repair, and maintenance needs.

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