Cracking the Code on Green Parking

Cracking the Code on Green Parking

How a Duke parking structure secured LEED certification

Colleges and universities are competing to build the most green, sustainably designed facilities. But some projects, by nature alone, have end uses, or are constructed with materials, that make it nearly impossible to secure U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) LEED certification. Single-use, standalone parking structures are one such genre of building, and parking design consultants have struggled for years to crack this green building code.

In December 2010, the USGBC awarded the Research Drive Garage in Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina--a partnership of Duke University and Walker Parking Consultants--the first-ever LEED certification for a single-use parking structure. The $35 million, 1,900-space garage opened in January 2010. With a motivated community of Duke supporters driving this goal, our team thought strategically and sourced innovative new processes and products to deliver a project that's cost neutral when compared to traditional structures and delivers 50 percent more energy efficiency than Duke's existing parking facilities. Before we developed this approach to sustainable parking design, LEED status could only be secured for projects physically linked to traditional construction projects or that incorporated mixed-use components, such as retail space, with nonparking-related green design elements, which score high on the certification criteria.

Using recycled materials from local suppliers mitigated energy impacts from transportation and supported area businesses.

For example, HVAC and climate control systems often serve as critical contributors to a building's overall LEED certification score. Garages are naturally ventilated and do not require these high-scoring systems. We viewed the design-build process holistically, seeking ways to increase efficiency not only in the building itself, but also during the planning process, while finding and disposing of materials. Cutting-edge infrastructure systems continue to benefit performance as the garage operates. This approach, along with the below factors, likely enabled us to win the USGBC's first LEED designation for a single-use parking facility.

  1. New LED technology. Perhaps the biggest contributor to our success came from a technological breakthrough in LED lighting systems introduced during the design process. Like other LED installations, the system allowed for "daylight harvesting" while minimizing or eliminating light waste from the garage. For the first time, we could build a system providing substantial energy savings while performing as a one-for-one replacement for our original design. Rather than requiring a complete overhaul of our first lighting system, these new products worked seamlessly with the infrastructure we had already planned to use. This development garnered us six points toward LEED certification.
  2. Strategic site selection. This was a critical factor for Duke administrators from day one. We reviewed a variety of locations for a new parking structure to help alleviate a high demand for parking, particularly in the Research Drive corridor. An existing surface parking lot was selected as the best development site, allowing Duke to maximize available parking spaces while maintaining green space. This approach added two LEED points.
  3. Strategic sourcing and recycling. While working to develop the garage, we sought out recycled materials directly from local suppliers, which mitigated energy impacts from long-distance transportation while supporting area businesses. We also refocused our attention on a thoughtful recycling management process, targeting the reuse or local disposal of materials generated during the construction project. This approach added two points to our LEED certification total.
  4. Green infrastructure systems. We earned 31 points toward this first-ever designation (26 points were required). Most of our points were based on the unprecedented amount of sustainable infrastructure. Also, the project features two 10,000-gallon cisterns to collect rainwater for landscaping; green trellises and walls to help reduce the "heat island" effect; rain gardens to filter excess storm-water and slow the reintroduction into the city's storm-water system; preferred parking for low-emission, fuel-efficient and carpool vehicles; and an operations/payment system that drastically reduces idling and excessive driving while customers enter and exit. Administrators are considering adding electric car charging stations to meet this growing demand.

With the above efforts, parking projects can crack the green building code.

Todd Lohman is a project manager at Walker Parking Consultants. Paul Manning is director of the office of project management at Duke University.


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