This Design-Driven App Is Rethinking Parking (So You Don’t Have To)
When owners, architects and general contractors think about how to make their building unique, they usually aren't thinking about the parking garage.
“Parking structures are often a necessary evil,” said Brian McCarthy, a vice president at Swinerton who leads the national construction firm’s healthcare, education and parking practices in Southern California. “Since they’re not revenue-generating space, they become an afterthought for owners.”
But when left to the last minute, parking can become a big problem. Though their structures may be simple, parking garages still require contractors and owners to issue requests for information, go through architectural conceptualizing and make dozens of design choices. Approvals can eat up weeks of precious time, slowing progress across an entire job site.
Having seen many owners and projects get bogged down in the details of parking garages over his career, McCarthy wanted to devise a solution to simplify designing parking so that owners and contractors alike could focus their efforts on other projects. Partnering with Walker Consultants, the Swinerton team created a data- and design-driven parking solution called Perq.
Owners can submit their site’s parameters and Perq will immediately suggest a design for the garage that provides the parking they need, fitting building codes across the country. By using Perq, owners can eliminate a lengthy internal process of approvals.
Casey Wagner, an executive vice president at Walker Consultants, estimates that a usual parking garage requires 23 months from the planning through to final delivery. By using Perq, owners can save nine months in the procurement and design process and one month in construction, cutting the timeline nearly in half.
“When we started thinking about Perq, we asked ourselves, ‘How do we make this process repeatable, easy and ruthlessly efficient?’” Wagner said. “A parking garage is a functional space. It doesn’t need to be special or different every time.”
The secret to Perq’s efficiency is in the consistency of its design. While Perq can handle garages ranging from three to six levels and 300 to 1,100 spaces, the support columns and bays in every Perq garage will look the same. By using an identical design every time, Swinerton can ship the same concrete forms from its facility in Riverside, California, to any job site across the country.
There is still some room for customization, as owners can choose from a handful of facade choices to complement the design of their buildings. But the way that McCarthy and Wagner envisioned Perq is a design process without any requests for proposals, submittals, approvals or change orders.
“There’s a lot of trust that has to be placed between a designer, a builder and an owner for this to work,” Wagner said. “But having seen thousands of designs before, we know exactly what designs work to make this a smooth, simple process.
Handling the parking garage early on in a construction project can speed along a project’s entire timeline. Finishing a garage can mean easier parking for laborers and trade partners on-site and removing congestion for deliveries. And without the need to approve designs, architects and owners can focus work on other parts of the project.
“Too often, parking designs are rushed through in an emergency,” McCarthy said. “Perq solves that headache at the earliest possible part of the process and gets out ahead of any problems.”
Swinerton and Walker have also seen interest in Perq from developers and investors interested in buying land sites. Potential buyers can submit a list of sites, and Perq can provide proposed designs and budgets for each different site. Especially in McCarthy’s home market of Southern California, parking structures for developments often have just as much square footage as the buildings themselves. Perq can give potential buyers a better idea of how much room and rentable square footage they will actually have on their sites.
Perq isn't going to be a solution for every kind of owner. Some infill sites may need a parking garage with a unique shape or other custom design features. McCarthy said some universities use their garages as architectural statements to introduce visitors to campus. For the majority of owners, though, a parking garage is a utilitarian space, and the design process can be simplified significantly.
“A parking garage is rarely going to be the most eye-catching part of your project,” Wagner said. “If we can reduce error and improve quality, all while providing a fixed price upfront, that’s a huge industry disruptor.”
This article was produced in collaboration between Swinerton and Studio B. Bisnow news staff was not involved in the production of this content.
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