Rethinking A Lot

Summer 2012

New possibilities for parking lots include power generation and car charging stations

By David Smith


Rethinking A Lot

One of the standing jokes about shoppers is their urge to park as close to the store as possible, even if this requires driving around the lot for a few extra minutes looking for that premium parking space. Once the car is parked, the parking lot is merely an ‘in-between’ space to get through as quickly as possible to reach one’s destination.

A recent book, Rethinking A Lot – The Design and Culture of Parking by Eran Ben-Joseph, tells us what we already know about supersized, mostly vacant parking lots: They erode urban visual, environmental and social quality. A shocking statistic, however, is Ben-Joseph’s estimate of the total area of parking in the U.S. at 500 million spaces.That’s about 3,590 square miles (929,805 ha)—an area slightly larger than Puerto Rico.

Ben-Joseph redeems parking lots used for community or social functions, such as farmers’ markets, tailgating and traveling carnivals. He recognizes that parking lots present significant opportunities for combining social spaces and economic gain. Parking lots with environmental benefits, such as permeable surfaces, receive recognition as well. Installing solar panels and parking cars under them might make sense as solar cell costs decrease. Imagine a garage structure built from solar panels paid for by the very electricity that is generated and sold back to the power company.

From the industry perspective, a parking pavement area more or less the size of Puerto Rico will need to be replaced in the next 50 years. With tightening stormwater regulations, some lots will be retrofitted with permeable pavement. Even if a modest 3 percent of this massive parking area is converted to permeable interlocking concrete pavement (PICP), that’s two square miles or 55.7 million sf (518 ha) per year of PICP. We are rethinking a lot.

Speaking of rethinking, you’ve probably noticed the new look and feel to this magazine. You are holding the first of the next generation. The name change from Interlocking Concrete Pavement Magazine to Interlock Design includes layout and content enhancements. We continue to present quality information on commercial and municipal interlocking pavement projects for design professionals, contractors and project owners. Advertising will soon include outstanding products from paver manufacturers and allied concrete product producers. We invite readers to send successful projects to feature in future issues. From our first publication in February 1994, to this new one, and those to come, we aim to present you with many new ideas and reasons to rethink a lot.