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Parking Structure Technology: Get It Right

Jeff Smith
Parking Structure Technology
© Craig Cozart

From the outside, a parking structure seems like a simple design. It’s just decks, ramps, and parking spaces, right? But parking facilities are undergoing a technological disruption much like what’s happening within the walls of the “social building.” A multitude of new technologies and solutions are flooding the market, and we’re being challenged to answer the question, “Are we ready?”

New technologies being employed provide users and owners with real-time information. Parking Access and Revenue Control Systems (PARCS), Parking Guidance Systems (PGS), license plate recognition (LPR), digital wayfinding signage, electronic security systems, paging systems, Blue Light Assistance phones, Wi-Fi, Distributed Antenna Systems (DAS) and Emergency Responder Radio systems are now capable of identifying users, providing up-to-the-millisecond information, and directing cars to available spaces, thus providing the ubiquitous connectivity users expect and more.

Parking Structure Technology Integration

The key to successful implementation of all these smart systems is connectivity via wired and wireless networks. The more integrated they are, the greater the value they provide to garage operators and users. A fully integrated parking experience might allow users to reserve a parking spot on a mobile phone app, drive into the garage without having to stop for a ticket, be guided to their parking location, check flight information, and pay automatically without any human interaction.

Parking structures represent huge capital investments for owners. They’re typically built of concrete and designed to last for decades. Once a garage is constructed, it is difficult, unattractive, and inefficient to add new infrastructure each time an additional technology system is added. While the technology end-point device may have a lifespan of five years, the IT network should last 15 to 20 years. Parking owners love the idea of high-tech solutions, but worry whether they’ll end up saddled with outdated legacy systems that will be costly to change. Thus, it’s critical to plan and budget the IT infrastructure at the project’s conception.

Parking Structure Technology
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Get it Right at the Planning Stage

Today’s garage design requires scoping out a true network topology to support planned and future IT devices. Parking owners benefit from including an IT infrastructure designer during the planning/programming stages and creating a technology systems matrix identifying all the options available along with estimated costs for implementation of those systems. This design process gives owners the information they need to identify which systems they can afford today and ensure their infrastructure plan (conduit, electrical power, spaces, distances) will support expansions of their systems in the future.

A well-designed IT infrastructure is flexible enough to support generations of end-device change-outs. If owners decide not to implement a system when the building opens, they have the option to do so at a later point. Not planning in the necessary infrastructure closes owners off to future opportunities — or those future opportunities get implemented in a really ugly way. It’s always more expensive to retrofit.

Using a licensed, certified, and experienced engineer to design this infrastructure will result in consistent and constructible systems with predictable outcomes. Hire an engineering firm that designs in Revit, the building information modeling (BIM) software. Revit is the industry standard tool that allows all the design disciplines to create a 3D model of the structure. Telecommunications conduits and pathways are mapped out in coordination with the structural, MEP, and technology systems. This allows clash detection in the model, in which potential issues are resolved before they reach the field, forestalling costly revisions at later design phases. This is especially important when designing a concrete facility that cannot be easily modified later.

As disruptions to car travel continue to evolve, combined with the looming advent of autonomous vehicles, parking structures will continue to see the push towards rapid advancements in technology. Strategize early, so change won’t lock you out. 

Have a complex project that incorporates multiple technology systems? Read “7 Signs Your Building Project Needs an IT Project Manager.”

Jeff Smith
Jeff Smith, Principal, Vice President

Jeff puts his decades of experience across all physical security disciplines to work creating systems that will last for the lifespan of his clients’ buildings. He started his career as a technician doing field implementation, a perspective that informs his approach to usability and efficiency. Jeff oversees the entire security department at TEECOM and ensures that the security component of all projects is integrated within the overall technology system.