Blog: Parking Innovation with Parksmart

Imagine a structure in the built environment that is sustainable, contributes to a sense of place, and is innovative. What sort of structure do you have in mind? You probably are not alone if you were not thinking about a parking garage. However, it is the aim of a forward-thinking building rating system, called Parksmart, to engage and change these otherwise nondescript structures into an integral part of the sustainable urban environment. To push the envelope into this new frontier in sustainability, Parksmart uses three main sections to define and recognize sustainable practices and achievement relative to parking structures: management practices, structure programming, and structure design and innovation.

Why Parksmart?

The transportation industry accounts for a large share of our society’s resource expenditure and emissions. According to the Energy Information Agency (, vehicles in the United States consumed 385 million gallons of gasoline per day in 2015, which accounts for 47% of the total U.S. petroleum consumption. Additionally, as cited by a research paper published by the University of Illinois at Chicago, 30% of traffic congestion in major cities can be attributed to cruising for parking spots. The paper goes on to suggest that in Chicago alone, this cruising accounts for 63 million Vehicle Miles Traveled per year, consuming 3.1 million gallons of gasoline and emitting 48,000 tons of CO2 emissions.

Parksmart seeks to reduce this large impact by defining industry best practices that not only reduce the structure’s environmental impact, but also to reduce the impact of all of those wasted miles by intelligently integrating the parking structure into the urban environment in a way that reduces the miles and time spent looking for spots. Parksmart seeks to accomplish this using strategies such as :

  • Sharing parking with different user groups in a way that maximizes the parking structure’s efficiency, by offsetting peak parking loads, thus reducing the total number of spots needed
  • Appropriately-priced parking which can reduce automobile commuting by 10% – 30%
  • Integrating the parking structure with available mass transit to reduce overall vehicle miles traveled and emissions by making the city’s mass transit network immediately available to commuters

Inside the Parksmart Rating System

The Parksmart rating system consists of three main sections, each with associated measures that are individually applicable based on the unique characteristics of each parking structure project. The three main sections, with a sample of associated measures, are as follows:


  • Parking Pricing
  • Shared Parking
  • Proactive Operational Maintenance
  • Cleaning Procedures


  • Placemaking
  • Access to Mass Transit
  • Carshare Program
  • Rideshare Program

Technology and Structure Design

  • Energy Efficient Lighting Systems
  • Design for Durability
  • Electric Vehicle Charging Stations
  • Rainwater Harvesting

A fourth section, Innovation, enables recognition for facilities that deploy environmentally sustainable initiatives beyond the scope of measures in the Parksmart rating system.

The Who, What, and Why of Parksmart

Parksmart is managed by the Green Business Certification, Inc (GBCI), who administers the enormously successful LEED® rating systems. Parksmart advisors can help project teams navigate the certification process and submit the required documentation to the certifying body.

It is a rating system available to all parking structures with at least two levels. It is open to already-completed structures in use, as well as structures under construction or design. As the organization states, “Parksmart distinguishes the forward-thinking parking facilities shaping tomorrow’s sustainable mobility network.”

Parksmart offers parking structure operators an integrated path into urban sustainability by providing a framework that recognizes parking structures that reduce their environmental impact, increase their energy efficiency, manage parking spaces efficiently, encourage alternative mobility options, and strengthen community relationships.

Interested in Parksmart? 3R Sustainability can help! Jason Clark, 3R Associate, is a Parksmart Advisor. He and the team can assist you in navigating the Parksmart standard and certification process. Call today! 724.741.9900.