Driving change

Published:  09 July, 2014

New technology is creating opportunities for more efficient parking facilities, says Arnaud de Froissard

Parking is often a shopper’s first and last experience at any retail centre. So it is vital when luring shoppers to sites further from their homes that the importance of parking isn’t underestimated. Shoppers expect parking sites which are accessible, well sign-posted, clean and above all, safe. 

Like any other area of retail facilities management, effective parking requires a significant investment and with the right expertise, available funds can be used to improve efficiency, customer experience and extend the life of sites. Even without the budget for building new facilities, existing car parks can see significant improvements and long term cost savings from short term investment. 

Planning the design of a new car park presents the opportunity to use innovative ways and natural build materials such as living ‘green walls’ to ensure durability and sustainability but there are still plenty of options available to improve efficiency when dealing with existing sites and infrastructure. 

New technology can be adapted easily in older car parks. At Vinci Park we’ve introduced LED lighting at older sites, which improve appearance and security but are also cheaper in the long run. At our West India Quay site, serving the shopping destinations of Canary Wharf, new lighting is expected to create a 64.7 per cent year-on-year reduction in carbon dioxide emissions and electricity consumption. 

This new LED lighting is expected to cover its own equipment and installation costs in less than two years, but with a life cycle of five years this will ensure a significant saving in the long run. Furthermore, as the costs of this technology continue to reduce, the payback period will similarly become shorter; particularly as rising energy costs re-enforce the need for energy efficiency and green solutions. 

While an older parking site might also bring reliance on older machinery including lifts, pumps and ventilation systems - particularly for underground car parks - new technology can ensure that they operate with modern efficiency. Voltage optimisers can reduce energy usage, while movement and daylight sensors can make older lighting more efficient even when LED systems are less viable. 

Tying more efficient systems to on-site renewable energy production will go even further, potentially reaching a point in the future when a car park can supply its own energy as technology becomes more efficient. At VinciPark sites we have introduced photo-voltaic panels to redundant space on the car park roofs, as well as wind turbines at other sites, to cover up to 20 per cent of a multi-story car park’s energy usage.

For concrete structures the effects of water infiltration and weathering which might reduce the life of the site can be mitigated by installing a waterproof membrane to the exterior of the car park. They can last up to 30 years, extending the life of the car park, and can also incorporate colour coding and slip resistance to improve safety.

Resurfacing a car park with more resilient paint can have a huge impact; reducing long-term wear and tear, revitalising a site and allowing for branded colour coding, making a parking facility easier to navigate and ensuring it reflects the appearance and branding of the main shopping centre.  

With these updates, and the addition of CCTV coverage and on-site security staff, our retail car parks have all been awarded Park Mark recognition for safer parking. As well as creating more durable facilities, and pleasant parking environments, these changes can also help to reassure customers. Particularly with staff, season ticket holders and long-term stays, it is important to ensure users know their vehicles are safe. 

Investing in parking facilities is a vital part of the strategy for any shopping site, ensuring a positive customer experience, easy access to shopping areas and encouraging a return visit. The cost of new facilities is not inconsiderable, and making sure a car park remains a pleasant and safe place to park requires repeat investment. With the right advice budgets can be spent more effectively in the short term and long term on measures to ensure the durability, sustainability and safety of a car park and to keep customers coming back.  

  • Arnaud de Froissard is special projects manager at Vinci Park UK

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