First and foremost, parking structures—either basement, structured, or surface—must provide for the safe and efficient passage of automobiles as well as visitors to and from their vehicles. Therefore, attention should be given to maximizing visibility for vehicles entering parking lanes and individual spaces, circulating within the parking lot, and entering and exiting the parking area. Typical features of outside surface parking space types include the list of applicable design objectives elements as outlined below. For a complete list and definitions of the design objectives within the context of whole building design, click on the titles below.
- Minimal Visual Impact: The surface parking lot should not dominate the building site. Through a combination of planning, architectural, and landscaping elements, the visual impact on the surrounding streets and developments can be minimized. For example, surface parking is generally located to the rear or side of the building and away from the street or street intersections, while providing direct pedestrian access to the buildings. Note that textures, patterns, and colors are encouraged in the design of surface parking in order to provide breaks in large monolithic areas of pavement and distinguish between pedestrian and vehicular movement within the parking area.
- Signage and Wayfinding: Signage should indicate all major internal pedestrian access points as well as external major roads and buildings. In surface parking lots, pavement markings are reflective paint and traffic control signage is usually reflective metal with minimum 5" high letters. The Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices for Streets and Highways (ANSI D 6.1e) provides guidance on pavement marking and signage.
- Lighting: Lighting is used to provide security and access within the parking area at night. The lighting design should prevent off-site lighting and night sky pollution. Meeting or providing lower light levels and uniformity ratios than those recommended by the Illuminating Engineering Society of America are recommended. Strategies include: parking lot light fixtures that use fixture cutoffs and/or are optically controlled for light spillover and glare beyond the boundary of the development; and outdoor fixtures that are oriented and shielded to prevent direct illumination above the horizontal surface passing through the fixture. Outdoor lighting should be energy efficient, metal halide/high pressure sodium/or similar sources.
- Landscaping and Storm Water Management: Landscaping elements such as berms, walls, and indigenous hedges and trees are usually used to screen the periphery of the surface parking lot. Intermediate islands within the surface parking provide opportunities to plant native and/or adapted trees, which can provide shade in pedestrian walkways. Also, low impact development strategies, such as bioretention cells, should be incorporated into the surface parking design to maximize on-site infiltration of stormwater.
The following diagram is representative of typical tenant plans.
Example Construction Criteria
Relevant Codes and Standards
The following agencies and organizations have developed codes and standards affecting the design of outdoor surface parking. Note that the codes and standards are minimum requirements. Architects, engineers, and consultants should consider exceeding the applicable requirements whenever possible:
Building / Space Types
- Architectural Graphic Standards, 12th Edition by American Institute of Architects, Dennis J. Hall. New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2016.
- Planning and Design Guidelines, Chapter 05 - Parking and Loading by City of Surprise, AZ.