The Book Has Been Published!


The Book Has Been Published!

Finally, after a gestation that seemed to last forever, THE BOOK has been published! Car Park Design is published by the UK’s Institution of Structural Engineers and is available either as a pdf or hard copy. I co-authored this book and the institution’s previous guide, published in 2011. 

The new edition is double the size of its predecessor. I believe it is the first book to address the issues facing designers as we transition to EVs, and although written from a UK perspective, we increasingly drive the same vehicles as the U.S., so it contains much that will be of use on your side of the pond. 

The book looks at the wider context for a car park, as well as the nuts and bolts of design. The issue of suicide prevention, which is a topic of increasing concern here, is addressed, as is fire safety, which is a particular problem with EVs. Issues like “end of life” and how to minimize the environmental impact of the structure when it is no longer useful are covered. 

Now, if your car park is built mainly of steel rather than concrete, the solution is much easier because the steel components can be unbolted and re-used or melted down and turned into Coke cans or whatever. Other sodas are available. However, since the book was first revealed, the headline issues have all been around vehicle sizes and weights, and electric vehicles. 

It seems a universal truth that when a new car model is introduced, it will be bigger and heavier than what it replaces. For example, the VW Golf, launched in 1974, is 15 percent longer and 10 percent wider now. The change in width is magnified by changes in vehicle design philosophy. 

In 1974, car doors were little more than two sheets of steel with a window sandwiched between. Today, the door also contains an anti-penetration bar, airbags, an electric motor to operate the window, and the essential door bin, all of which can add a foot or more to the door’s thickness. 

All this means that as time moves forward, parking bay widths are becoming more problematical. The book recognizes that the old standard width of 2.4m is no longer fit for purpose and suggests that it would be best practice to design bays 2.6 m wide, an increase of 8 percent. Recommended bay lengths are also increased, not least to allow space for battery charger units. 

The biggest concern, however, is the growth in vehicle weights, particularly electric vehicles. We all know that battery-powered car weighs significantly more than their ICE equivalents, and new car parks can be designed appropriately. What is becoming obvious is that many existing car parks are not designed to accommodate the weights that EVs will impose on their decks. 

Not unsurprisingly, His Majesty’s Government were blissfully unaware of this issue when they announced that we would all go electric and so, once again, the government doggedly plod on to their mis-imagined green nirvana. Here in the real world, practitioners are desperately trying to get to grips with what it will mean when large swathes of our parking estate will have to become out of bounds to a significant proportion of the vehicle fleet. The very definition of SNAFU, me thinks?

On electric vehicles, perhaps the very definition of “The Issue” is range anxiety, or the fear that drivers will find themselves stranded with a flat battery. In theory, this  should diminish as the network of public charge points grows. 

In reality, as the roll out of charging points stutters and stumbles along, this is very far from the truth. The government has ambitions but nothing that looks like a coherent plan which relies largely on the private sector for delivery. 

Private sector equals “for profit,” so no one is going to put chargers in the middle of the countryside  where two cars are a traffic jam and large parts of the country remain no go areas for EVs. This problem is magnified by the still unacceptably large proportion of chargers that don’t work, the plethora of different suppliers, each requiring users to “join up” and to use an often less than reliable app and a charging infrastructure that has no standards.

However, relief may be on the way. In May, the VW group announced that they had a 1,000km range battery car under test; and Toyota has revealed a 1,500 km range battery car. Their plan is to have a vehicle in production by 2027 with a 10-minute charge time. The solid-state batteries they will use have long been considered inferior to traditional lithium ion batteries, but Toyota say that they have resolved the issues and presumably, if they can, anyone can.

I mentioned Clear Air zones (CAZ) a few months ago. The principle is simple: when an area has atmospheric pollution, bad enough to threaten public health, the municipality can create a CAZ where older polluting vehicles are charged a fee to enter to discourage their use. 

The City of Southampton is one of our biggest ports and it has an air pollution problem. Therefore, the city has been considering a CAZ in the city center. This seems to have run into problems and the city is also toying other initiatives to reduce pollution. 

Southampton is also the center of operations for many cruise liners. Covid effectively killed the business for a couple of years and all the ships were moored in open water, somewhere out in the English Channel, to save money from harbor fees. 

But hark, what’s this I see? Time has moved on and cruising is booming again and the boats are back in dock. They sit running their engines producing pollution. So much pollution, in fact, that it outweighs the pollution from road traffic. What needs to happen next is not rocket science.

And finally, during the preparation of the aforementioned book, there was a lot of talk about what was the right proportion of EV chargers to spaces in a car park and the unscientific consensus seems to be about 20 percent. A new hospital car park in Kings Lynn in Norfolk is being designed with just over 1 percent. The law says 20percent.

Article contributed by:
Peter Guest, Parking Tales from Big Ben
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