Parksmart rewards energy-efficient garages that keep the air safe

Mike Adelman
Published on: 

Best practices in parking operations are constantly evolving. Sometimes, new technology drives radical changes in best practices. More often, though, best practices evolve gradually and steadily as subject matter experts share their knowledge and experience. 

In the parking world, there are several trade associations and other forums that facilitate information sharing for the betterment of all stakeholders. But although the introduction of new technology generates buzz, parking facilities often are behind the curve in using tried-and-true technology with well-documented benefits for facility owners, operators, patrons and the environment.

One such technology is sensor-based control of ventilation systems in enclosed garages. According to Frank Nagle of Nagle Energy Solutions, the greatest source of energy consumption—and therefore non-labor operational cost—for an enclosed, commercial garage, is the mechanical system that ventilates it. 

All enclosed parking garages in North America are subject to ventilation standards established by the International Mechanical Code and the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning (ASHRAE). They both stipulate that garage ventilation systems must run continuously during building-occupied hours—the exception being when they deploy carbon monoxide (CO) sensor-based demand-controlled ventilation (DCV) systems.

Nagle points out that, for an enclosed garage adhering to code standards and not deploying sensor-based controls, approximately two-thirds of its energy bill goes toward paying for ventilation—and he’s got eight-plus years of measurement and verification data to prove it.

Whereas lighting solutions garner much attention at parking conferences and expos, garage ventilation control solutions tend to be overlooked and underappreciated. 

Vehicle exhaust is toxic to humans. Therefore, it is essential that owners and operators of these facilities understand their potential liability due to improper ventilation. The good news is that a well-designed and properly maintained ventilation control system provides iron-clad mitigation of the health risk liability while delivering substantial energy savings.

NES has produced well-documented case studies showing that retrofitting the ventilation controls in an enclosed garage typically yields a 90 percent or greater reduction in energy cost. In dollar terms, the savings are so substantial that payback on the system is typically less than two years.

Reductions in energy consumption are not only good for business—they also benefit the environment. Parksmart recognizes the environmental benefit of efficient ventilation by awarding points during certification to enclosed parking garages that embrace sensor-based ventilation controls.

Of course, enclosed garages are only a small fraction of the overall parking footprint. But as urban cores become home to more residential redevelopment, there is pressure to enclose parking that has historically been “open” to natural ventilation. 

In a June 13, 2015 article in the San Diego Union Tribune, Gary Smith, president of the San Diego Downtown Residents Group, said, “We’re now seeing buildings come forward with above-ground parking. It’s a bad thing unless they are fully encapsulated.” He went on to say that unless the parking levels are designed right, residents will be bothered by squealing tires, car alarms and headlights shining into neighbors’ bedrooms at night.

Often, embracing best practices comes with hard costs and soft benefits. Garage ventilation is one best practice that truly provides the triple bottom line win to “people, planet and profit.” Garage owners and operators are encouraged to baseline the working condition of their ventilation control system and verify that it is being periodically tested to ensure that it is responding properly to rises in vehicle exhaust gas levels. Ignoring the ventilation system increases safety risk and is likely wasting substantial money on the monthly energy bill.

Mike Adelman is general manager of INTEC Controls.