Guide to Rooftop Parking Design

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For your parking garage design to provide the best user experience, you need to integrate structure and function with aesthetics and human considerations. Achieving this requires bringing several factors into play.

This guide to rooftop parking design can help you design a functional and aesthetically pleasing rooftop parking structure. In this guide, you'll learn:

  • The important factors to consider in designing a rooftop parking lot — according to professionals.
  • The requirements for designing a rooftop parking lot — so you can provide the best user experience.
  • The steps to rooftop parking garage design —  so you can consider all the crucial elements.
  • The benefits of adding a shade structure to your rooftop parking space.

We'll also point you to design standards and building codes your design should comply with. 

This guide can help you design functional and user-friendly rooftop parking structures, and avoiding mistakes in the design stage can help you achieve this goal faster and more cost-effectively.

Things to Consider When Building a Rooftop Parking Lot

First, let's discuss some factors to consider in a rooftop parking structure design. Thoroughly considering each of these elements can improve the value of your parking garage design.

  • Structural capacity of your parking garage: Can the roof of your building or parking garage handle the weight you want to put on it? The roof of your building or parking garage should possess the structural strength to house the vehicles and any additional structures you'll add.
  • Ease of access to the parking space: How accessible is the rooftop you want to retrofit into a parking area, and does it comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements? The rooftop of the parking garage or building you want to design for should have convenient, ADA-compliant access from bottom tiers or ground level for users to drive up and down through.
  • Aesthetic considerations:  Will your rooftop parking lot present an intriguing view for your users, or will it overlook another brick wall? While the primary function of the parking lot is to be a convenient space for users to park their vehicles, aesthetics can add value to your design and increase the level of satisfaction that your visitors get from using your rooftop parking lot. 
  • Compatibility with other installed equipment: What other fittings are installed on the rooftop of the building or garage, and how might they interrupt the smooth flow of vehicles and pedestrians? For example, most rooftops may already house air conditioners, plumbing fittings, and electrical equipment. Consider how these fittings affect your users' experience and how to design a parking structure around them to optimize the user experience. 
  • Other needed garage equipment: Beyond marking out parking bays and setting up ramps, what other equipment would you install on the rooftop parking lot? While designing the parking lot, consider the equipment placement, such as booths for revenue collection if applicable and offices for staff.
  • Your parking lot's users: Who would use the parking space? Different visitors have different needs. Considering the needs of the most frequent visitors can help you determine parking space width, the traffic flow, and the optimum turning radius. 
  • Desired parking layout: What parking configuration do you want to implement for your parking lot? In the design stage, consider the parking style you want to adopt — whether parallel parking, perpendicular parking, or angled parking. This is because the parking system you design for determines the traffic flow — whether one-way or two-way.
  • Financial requirements and costing: How much would it cost to implement your design? Finance is an essential consideration in design. You should create a harmony between the cost of your plan and the available budget. Also, analyze the parking layout capacity of your design and the cost per square foot to optimize your design for cost-effectiveness. 

Giving these factors proper consideration can help you design a rooftop parking lot that the end-users can get the most value from.

Requirements for Designing and Building a Rooftop Parking Lot

What are the requirements for designing and building a rooftop parking lot? Good parking garage designs provide more than spaces for people to park their vehicles. Good parking garage designs focus on maximizing value and user experience. To ensure the best visitor experience and value, you should design for a combination of functional, human, structural, aesthetic, and integration requirements. 

Many of the requirements for designing and building a rooftop parking lot interweave and build on one another.

Alignment With the Environment

In designing and building your rooftop parking lot, your design should align with the existing structures and buildings in the vicinity. This step can enable your parking lot to integrate seamlessly with its surroundings.

Different urban planning authorities offer different requirements and provisions for parking area design, including many that ensure environmental stewardship and sustainability. Your rooftop parking lot should integrate with these requirements. Consulting the building code of the state and city you design for can help you understand the standards your parking lot should follow.

Spatial Needs of Automobiles and Drivers

The parking lot should meet the spatial needs of the vehicles that visitors will park on it. Here are four spatial requirements your design should meet:

  • Optimum parking geometry: Your parking bay should provide enough parking space for each vehicle. Parking bays should be properly spaced, and the parking lot should have an accurate turning radius for easy traffic flow. The height, size, and width of the vehicles you're designing for will determine your parking geometry. 
  • Smooth entrance and exit: Design the traffic flow in the parking lot to avoid congestion at the entry and exit points. The parking lot should provide for safe and efficient passage of automobiles and drivers.
  • The number of parking spaces for automobiles: Consider the expected occupancy of the building or area the parking lot serves and how many cars it will need to accommodate. Also, consult the zoning code in your state to learn the required number of parking spaces for various properties.
  • Pedestrian access: Your design should provide walkway access from every parking space to the aisle and entrance of the parking lot. Also, for safety and efficiency, minimize the number of vehicle aisles pedestrians must cross when accessing the entrance. 

Structural Requirements

Your rooftop parking lot design should meet the structural requirements outlined below. 

  • Slippage and drainage requirements: Your garage design should have accurate sloping for water to flow to a collection point without creating pooling that may cause safety and maintenance problems.
  • Weather conditions: For a better user experience and to protect vehicles, you should make provisions for protecting your automobiles and drivers from weather conditions such as hail, heat, and UV radiation. For example, you could integrate cantilever canopy structures for shade and hail protection on rooftop parking.

Ensure your design meets all structural considerations by seeking peer review for the design before commencing the construction process. 

Operational and Safety Requirements

The safety and security of automobiles and drivers are crucial. Here are three operational and safety requirements your design should meet.

  • ADA compliance: From the design stage, you should make provisions for accessibility for your parking lot.
  • Points for the installation of security equipment: Your parking lot design should provide for cameras, security lights, and emergency communication buttons.
  • Signs for easy navigation: Integrate color-coded canopies, signs, visual cues, and numbering systems in your design to enable users to locate parking spaces in the parking lot. 

Green Roofing and Parking Requirements

Your parking lot design may be required to meet green parking standards to maintain sustainable building certifications or city ordinances. Some possibilities for ensuring an environmentally responsible parking area include installing green energy sources such as solar panels or using mesh shade structures to eliminate urban heat islands. 

Design Codes and Standards to Comply With

Below is a list of design codes and standards your design might need to comply with depending on the applicable laws or the property owner's requirements. We also list accreditation and standard organizations you can work with to guide your parking lot design.

Some codes and standards to consider for your design include:

  • United States ADA Guidelines
  • International Building Code (IBC)
  • Parksmart — The Green Parking Council's Green Garage Certification
  • Unified Facilities Guide Specifications (UFGS) 32 17 24.00 10 — Pavement Markings
  • US Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Rating System
  • Sustainable Sites Certification

Some organizations to consult during design and construction include:

  • American Society of Civil Engineers
  • American Planning Association
  • Eno Center for Transportation
  • The Automatic and Mechanical Parking Association — A newly formed association to advance the cause of automatic and mechanical facilities.
  • International Parking Association
  • Institute of Transportation Engineers
  • National Transportation Research Board
  • Parking Today
  • Parksmart
  • Urban Land Institute

Steps to Designing a Rooftop Parking Lot

Where should you start when designing a rooftop parking lot? Let's go through step by step how to design a parking structure on a rooftop.

Step 1: Conduct a Parking Study

Conduct a study of the existing parking structures in the building and the surrounding area to know the present parking space provisions and usage. Determine the unmet needs with existing parking and identify the impact a new parking lot could make. 

This can help you choose the best configurations, number of spaces, and traffic plan for your rooftop parking lot design. For example, an analysis of the waiting time and the kind of vehicles using existing parking lots can give you an insight into the type of visitors to design for.

Step 2: Determine Parking Geometry

Based on the shape and slope of the rooftop and the nature and number of automobiles your parking lot must accommodate, determine the parking bay sizing. Also, determine the orientation for your parking bays. Generally, your parking bays should be parallel to the longer dimension of the parking space. 

To determine the parking bay width, consider local zoning codes, which often set a minimum width for parking bays. The typical standard width for a parking bay is between 7-1/2 feet and 9 feet. ADA-compliant accessible parking spaces must be wider — at least 8 feet wide for standard vehicles and 11 feet wide for van parking, with a 5-foot aisle on either side for accessibility. Parking bays also need to be roughly 10 to 20 feet long. 

Specialized parking slots for trucks and trailers need to be broader and longer — at least 15 feet wide and 30-40 feet long. Outside of the parking bays, you must leave room and proper markings for vehicle traffic, pedestrian walkways, and adequate turn radiuses. These geometrics should be properly marked with painted striping.

Step 3: Determine Your Parking Type and Traffic Flow

Decide on the best traffic flow for your parking lot. Would one-way traffic serve you better than two-way traffic, or vice versa? Both traffic flow types — one-way and two-way traffic — come with pros and cons. 

Also, the flow you choose influences your parking configuration and the width of your aisles. For example, one-way traffic works best with angled parking bays. To implement perpendicular parking, a two-way traffic flow may serve you better. And for a one-way traffic flow, the angle of the parking bays determines the direction that vehicles flow. However, generally, the best parking type for your parking lot design should allow for maximum utilization of your parking lot, easy access to the entrance and exit, and streamlined traffic flow.

Step 4: Ensure Smooth Parking Lot Access

The exit and entry points to the parking lot should be highly visible. Also, consider other structures, such as booths, staff offices, and the like, and how they may cause congestion.

The expected traffic volume can also help you determine the number of entries and exits needed to allow for the best traffic flow. If the lot will be used primarily as long-term parking with few people arriving or leaving at once, fewer entries and exits are necessary. However, at workplaces or event venues, many vehicles will enter and leave the lot at similar times, necessitating more entry and exit points.

Step 5: Provide for Pedestrian Traffic

Make provision for pedestrian access in the parking lot. Pedestrian aisles like sidewalks must be separate from aisles for automobiles. Also, they should be within line of sight and preferably adjacent to the exit or entry point for vehicles.

Step 6: Design for Accessibility

The ADA requires a minimum number of accessible parking spaces for every parking lot. You should also consult the parking code of your state and municipality and the International Building Code (IBC) to determine accessibility requirements. Also, each accessible parking space must have appropriate signage and markings. 

Step 7: Design for Security and Safety

Include strategic locations for security cameras and lighting to improve nighttime visibility. Ensure a clear line of sight for security cameras with minimal obstructions in your design. Also, make provisions for two-way emergency communication systems and visible color-coding and symbols. You might also design for more lighting at the points of entry and exit. You can follow the industry lighting standards of the Illuminating Engineering Society (IES). 

Step 8: Implement Signs and Wayfinding

For proper design and user experience, your parking lot should have the appropriate signs to guide users. The signs must be placed correctly. They should be clear and easy to understand with legible text, recognizable symbols, and nighttime illumination. Here is a list of signs and wayfinding tools you should consider for your rooftop parking lot:  

  • Accessibility signs.
  • Entry and exit signs.
  • Regulatory traffic signs — like "one way," "stop," "no parking," "yield," and "do not enter." 
  • Pavement and parking bay striping.

All should conform to the Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTC) and state and local requirements.

Step 9: Design for Drainage

Rain, snow, water from pressure cleaning or nearby sprinklers, or vehicle leakage can pool in the parking lot and cause deterioration. The rooftop parking lot must allow for drainage, with a system to collect excess water. A slope of 2%-5% is recommended for proper parking lot drainage.

Step 10: Design for Aesthetics and Protection

Rooftop parking lots offer more than utility — they can also be fashion statements, attracting more visitors or tenants and increasing property value. For example, attractive rooftop views can add to the parking experience, making the lot a more desirable place for people to park. 

Also, to make your rooftop parking lot appealing to pedestrians and drivers and protect vehicles from hail, heat, UV radiation, and weather conditions, you can install shade structures. Shade structures provide both protective and aesthetic benefits to your parking lot.

Step 11: Obtain Needed Sustainable Design Features and Get Accreditation

If your rooftop parking lot is part of a building — for example, an office complex —  you can get the LEED accreditation from the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) to certify your parking facility as sustainable, green and energy-efficient. If you're designing a rooftop parking lot for a standalone parking garage, you may not be able to obtain a LEED accreditation. Still, you can earn specific green parking certifications by introducing sustainable design features into your garage and rooftop parking lot design. 

Some features that can qualify a project for sustainability certifications include adding solar panel shade structures and water-efficient landscaping on the roof. You can find more on the USGBC website.

Benefits of Incorporating Shade Structures to Rooftop Parking Design

Incorporating shade structures into your rooftop parking lot design provides benefits such as:

  • Improved structural aesthetics: For rooftop parking lots in multi-level parking garages, protective fabric covering shade structures can provide more aesthetic value than concrete walls or enclosures on the upper deck without losing the benefits of concrete coverings for shade.
  • More parking space and visibility: Drivers may avoid parking on rooftop parking spaces in parking garages because of their exposure to the weather elements such as hail, heat, and UV radiation. With a rooftop covering, you can provide more convenient parking space and get more revenue.
  • Better visibility for driving: Compared to concrete columns and walls, shade structures like cantilevers can improve visibility and ease the flow of traffic and pedestrians.
  • More cost-effective: Fabric shade structures are more affordable and cost-effective than concrete coverings. For example, VPS covered parking solutions might cost 15%-25% of the cost of adding another concrete deck to a garage.
  • Improved property market value: Fabric shade structures are attractive and can increase the availability of shaded parking spaces, which can increase the marketability of your parking space or your property value overall.

VPS works with designers and architects to fit parking lots and garages with permanent fabric shade structures. VPS can also help you in designing a functioning and aesthetically pleasing rooftop parking space.

Contact VPS for Your Shade Structures

Work with the industry leader in parking lot shade structure fabrication and automobile protection to delight your tenants and other parking lot visitors. 

For over three decades, architects and designers of parking lots all over the United States rely on VPS to design, fabricate, and install high-quality, durable, and aesthetically pleasing shade structures to protect automobiles from the damaging effects of hail, heat, and UV radiation. 

VPS offers turnkey automobile protection solutions for parking spaces. Here's what you get with VPS:

  • Customized services: We tailor our services to meet your parking lot needs. We can provide shade structures for parking lots of different sizes and designs, using a range of materials and solutions.
  • Expert, dedicated team: Our team provides you with quality, time-tested solutions that you can rely on. We can also supply architects and designers with the technical information and documents they need to complete their parking lot designs.
  • Maximum satisfaction: Our facilities are accredited by the International Accreditation Service (IAS), and we comply with industry standards and processes to ensure the best quality shade structures.
  • Long-term partnership: From initial survey, design, development, fabrication, installation, and management, we work with you throughout your rooftop parking project so you can focus on other areas only you can handle.

Request a quote from VPS for your rooftop parking shade structures and to discuss your parking lot covering needs.