Sustainable innovation in surface parking

Paul Wessel
Published on: 

Forward-thinking real estate owners across the United States are exploring how their often-ignored impervious parking lots could be reimagined. In so doing, they help create an environmentally and socially responsible, healthy and prosperous environment that improves quality of life. JLL and Procter & Gamble are among those businesses leading efforts to develop high-performing surface parking.

These owners and managers are responding to the challenge posed by MIT Department of Urban Studies and Planning head Eran Ben-Joseph in his book "ReThinking a Lot": “For something that occupies such a vast amount of land, and is used on a daily basis, the parking lot has received scant attention. It’s time to ask: what can a parking lot be? It’s time to rethink the lot.”

An estimated 500 million surface parking spaces cover the nation, encompassing over a third of some cities’ land mass. These lots can pollute our water, heat up our communities and litter the landscape. Yet this needn’t be the case. Designed with sustainability in mind, surface parking can reduce energy consumption through the generation of renewable energy, improve air and water quality, alleviate traffic congestion and safely connect neighborhoods and people.

USGBC Platinum members Procter & Gamble (P&G) and JLL at the Mason Business Center in Ohio are the latest owners and facility managers working to rethink the parking lot in accord with Ben-Joseph’s call for surface parking that “integrates its site conditions and context, takes measures to mitigate its impacts on the environment, and gives consideration to aesthetics as well as the driver-parker experience. Designed with conscientious intent, parking lots could actually become significant public spaces, contributing as much to their communities as great boulevards, parks, or plazas.”

JLL and P&G join the Cincinnati Zoo, Morton Arboretum, the New Haven Parking Authority, the Parking Spot, and UC Riverside, who are all working to identify and implement best practices in sustainable surface parking design and operation. Inspired by their team leads' experience with the LEED, SITES, and Parksmart rating systems, these projects are celebrated as sustainable surface parking demonstrator sites.

In a ceremony at P&G’s Mason Business Center on February 2, USGBC Ohio’s Michael J. Berning and Melissa Doughty applauded JLL and P&G for sustainable surface parking practices at P&G’s largest technical facility (which currently has a new LEED project under construction). The parking lot features innovative in-place asphalt recycling, LED lighting with sensors, landscaping improvements and rainwater management.

The project earned a Roads & Bridges/ARRA Recycling Award for its innovative approach to recycled asphalt installation.

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