How Green Parking is Helping Combat Climate Change

The Northeast Sustainable Energy Association (NESEA) is a leading voice in energy-efficient and low-impact development.  On March 9th, we shared our vision for enlisting green parking to create a climate-resilient built environment, presenting “Green Parking as a Climate Tool” at NESEA’s Building Energy conference in Boston.

Green parking concepts, including the US Green Building Council’s Parksmart Certification standard, can play an integral role in combatting climate change. We described a holistic view of parking at the intersection of “green” buildings and the transportation systems that feed those buildings, supported by adetailed explanation of green parking strategies. For NESEA’s vision of low-carbon cities and climate neutral buildings, parking infrastructure is a powerful component to promote those goals.

NESEA conferences attract a sophisticated array of architects and designers, policy-makers and building engineers, and the Boston gathering was no exception. Our audience, primarily architects, asked pointed questions about applying strategies for stormwater reclamation, resource efficiency and renewable energy generation to parking infrastructure. These are familiar tools for designing and constructing low-impact buildings, and attendees were eager to hear how they can be extended to parking garages and lots.

We outlined an ecosystem strategy for applying Parksmart’s green parking principles, beginning with assessing the inputs and outputs across an entire parking system. Evaluating the entirety of the parking operations and management, water and energy use, waste handling and pollution, can guide owners and operators to target changes with the biggest payoffs. We also emphasized the indirect benefits, including secondary “unintended impacts’ from relatively low-cost initiatives. Some attendees were surprised to learn that planting trees, while relatively inexpensive, has multiple environmental and social payoffs. These include mitigating urban heat island effects and storm water runoff, creating place and community connection.

Adopting a systemic approach to parking’s environmental and social impacts by integrating energy-efficiency practices can yield significant financial and environmental paybacks. This underscores parking’s unique role at the intersection of energy efficient buildings and low-carbon transportation, including alternative fuel and electric vehicles (EV). For example, the energy produced by photovoltaic (PV) panels installed over a single parking space can power an electric vehicle (EV) for 9,000 miles per year. In addition to powering low-carbon transportation and producing renewable energy, PV arrays produce numerous secondary benefits, including sheltering cars and patrons from the weather and shading buildings to reduce HVAC use. EV charging systems attract patrons and potentially increase revenues, while the entire integrated energy system produces a wealth of environmental paybacks to help combat climate change.

This holistic strategy for greening the parking landscape, supported by data-driven energy and resource efficiency, operations and community engagement initiatives, is at the core of Parksmart’s mission. We’re excited by the increasing number of “best in class” green parking structures, including the recently Parksmart Certified campus at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport. Learn more about Parksmart at http://parksmart.gbci.org/.

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