Contrary to the common belief, the Mechanical and Automated Parking Industry has existed for more than 100 years, with the first mechanical parking garage opening in Paris in 1905. From then on, the industry has undergone a tremendous growth and transformation and has come a very long way in terms of technological advances; thus producing a wide array of Automated Parking Solutions (APS), all with very different characteristics.
The predecessor of the Rotary System (the Pater Noster), for example, was originally engineered after the “Ferris Wheel”, so Rotary systems are able to independently park and retrieve vehicles without any human intervention by rotating up and down in a “carrousel” type of motion, while Bidirectional (or Puzzle) Systems perform all parking and retrieving tasks by moving vehicles both vertically and horizontally within the structure.
Rotary systems are less flexible in terms of required width and height, while bidirectional systems are modular, allowing for configurations with varying widths, number of levels and required heights between levels.
There are dependent systems (operator required), independent systems (operator not required), pit systems, rotary systems, bidirectional or puzzle systems, rack and rail systems, AGVs and hybrid systems, just to name a few; but the important thing here is not to know and understand how every single system on the market operates, but to know and understand that not all systems fit all applications.
Some systems may not be suitable for lower volume applications, some systems may not offer flexibility to work with lower ceiling heights, some systems may go underground, some systems may not work underground and so on and so forth… which takes us to the second most important thing to know when considering Automated Parking.
The most common pitfall we have seen in our experience integrating Automated Parking, is that projects come to us for evaluation when they are already designed.
The project has all the potential to integrate automated parking, parking footprints can be reduced to a third, freeing the other (super valuable) two thirds for more income producing square footage, the architect has all the freedom to redesign, the developer is making the project more profitable, tenants will have more amenities, tons will be saved in excavation and another ton in not having to build ramps; everybody is so excited! Except that all building columns need to be relocated...
Like in any other industry, one expert in a related trade does not perform tasks that fall in some other area of expertise. In other words, contractors do not develop architectural or structural plans, electrical engineers do not design mechanical installations and fire protection experts do not intervene with landscaping (unless is a fire hazard); but all these professionals do have a common knowledge of the entire industry and are able to read, interpret and communicate the work produced by other trades in order to work together in one common project.
It works the same way with the Automated Parking Integrator. The Integrator is the expert in the trade. No matter who the integrator is or what company you decide to work with, it is imperative for the expert to evaluate the project and determine which automated parking solution is the best possible fit for the specific needs of that specific project.
The integrator will look at all the variables: What are the dimensions of the space? What is the available height? Is it possible to go underground? Is it required to go underground? Does the site have an odd geometry? How many parking stalls are desired or required? The list is long, but the point is, that the most suitable automated parking solution for your project can only come after an automated parking expert has looked at all these variables and answered all these questions.
Then, the Integrator will work very closely with the project Architect, Structural Engineer, and any other professional involved, to determine the best and most efficient way to integrate this custom-picked automated parking solution within the project; avoiding potential conflicts with other critical trades and project requirements.
This understanding takes us to the third most important thing to know…
The upside of Automated Parking Solutions is that they offer unparalleled flexibility when compared to the alternatives, the downside however, is that they are very difficult to standardize.
What are the dimensions of the system? How many vehicles can I fit in this square footage? What is the cost? How does the interface with the user work? Well, it depends, it depends, it depends and it depends...
You may say that Automated Parking Solutions are “custom-designed” and therefore, there is no straight answer to all these questions. Dimensions will depend on the type and configuration of the system, some solutions may work best utilizing more than one type of system and some solutions may work best in tandem.
An integrator can also give an estimated cost per stall, but the cost will also depend on the type of system selected and the ancillary components that will be required or preferred to make the system and the operation check all the boxes of the project.
User interfaces can go from a simple keypad to fingerprint recognition technology and users can also operate systems through a mobile app. Interface options are also broad and they all have different associated costs.
Cost also varies depending on the technology or system selected for the project; however, as a reference, we can all agree that the cost of building multi-level concrete parking structures is around $25,000 and 30,000 per stall. Some Automated Parking Systems may be around or under $20,000 per stall, other more sophisticated systems may be closer to the 25 to 30 thousand ratio, but the real value of APS goes beyond mere “stall per stall” mathematics.
Automated Parking Systems significantly reduce the cost of land acquisition and/or significantly increase income-producing square footage. Automated Parking Systems also greatly reduce operational and maintenance costs and are more energy efficient and more sustainable.
In any case, if you have questions regarding whether or not APS is the best option for your project or how it will help improve design, maximize use of space and make your project feasible and more profitable, you know what you need to do… consult with an Automated Parking Integrator like Automated Parking Corp.