Colleges and Universities Are Taking a Fresh Look at Campus Parking: Parking Resources Can Play a Vital Role in Advancing the Campus Mission of Becoming a Better Environmental Steward

By Jeppesen, Jake; Dorsett, John | Planning for Higher Education, January-March 2014 | Go to article overview

Colleges and Universities Are Taking a Fresh Look at Campus Parking: Parking Resources Can Play a Vital Role in Advancing the Campus Mission of Becoming a Better Environmental Steward


Jeppesen, Jake, Dorsett, John, Planning for Higher Education


COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES HAVE ALWAYS BEEN at the forefront of innovation, and over the years they have been responsible for numerous important scientific, technological, and social advances. A notable area in which this spirit of innovation is being embraced is campus parking. Administrators and planners understand that parking is a necessary and valuable resource in helping institutions meet important goals, and colleges and universities are using parking to achieve a wide array of objectives, including meeting financial challenges, improving the quality of life for students, and promoting institutional values.

PROMOTING VALUES

One of the most important legacies of the higher education community is its pioneering role in the sustainability movement. In recent years, colleges and universities have found that their parking resources can play a vital role in advancing the campus mission of becoming a better environmental steward.

There are a number of parking design features, both active and passive, that institutions are using to promote sustainability. One of the most intriguing--and simplest--is the introduction of solar carports in surface parking lots. Solar carports are simply canopies outfitted with photovoltaic panels that are positioned over parking spaces. In addition to producing solar electricity, they also provide shade for vehicles parked beneath them.

Parking structures also lend themselves to promoting solar energy. Parking garage rooftops provide platforms for photovoltaic panel systems that can create energy for use in powering the structure. If the photovoltaic arrays are large enough, they may even be able to help power adjacent university buildings. In addition to environmental advantages, these solar strategies can also provide financial advantages to an institution.

Today, electric vehicles finally seem poised to realize their potential. Many of the world's major car manufacturers are introducing or developing electric vehicles, and plug-in hybrids are also under development. But for electric vehicles to truly catch on there needs to be a place to charge them, and parking facilities provide an obvious solution. It is relatively simple to add electric vehicle charging (EVC) stations to the design of a new parking structure or lot, and they can also be added as part of a retrofit of an existing facility (although infrastructure modifications are often required with retrofits). We are still in the infancy of EVC development. As new technological breakthroughs continue to be introduced, it will become even more attractive for campuses to include EVC stations in their facilities.

Finally, there are a number of basic parking design approaches that many campuses use to promote sustainability. For instance, precast window openings and light cores that run from the roof to the bottom level of the parking structure let in natural light, reducing the need to illuminate interiors during the day. Additionally, the use of high-efficiency fluorescent and LED-controlled lighting can both be good for the environment and help reduce monthly lighting costs by as much as 70 percent.

The web is also improving lighting and air quality in parking structures. Web-based lighting control systems can be used to automatically turn lights on and off throughout the day and evening and offer auto-adjustment features to enable daylight harvesting and reduced light levels or turn lights off when no one is present in the structure. These systems can even include controls for improving ventilation management using carbon monoxide sensors and specially pitched fan blades to efficiently maintain safe air quality within the structure.

Also, pay-on-foot and monthly pass programs require parkers to pay for parking before they exit parking areas, thus reducing the amount of carbon dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, and carbon monoxide emitted by idling vehicles. This not only decreases pollution by reducing lines to exit parking facilities, but also provides a better parking experience for students, faculty, and staff. …

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