Case Study — Solar Parking Structure

Creative solutions to resolving parking issues.

The desire to grow is often met with challenges along the path from inspiration to realization. Such was the case when Broken Sound Country Club in Boca Raton, Florida, proposed an expansion of their club facility.

The Approach

Insufficient parking was hindering the club’s ability to support an increase in size and membership. With zoning permits being contingent on solving the parking dilemma, they began searching for options on how best to resolve the issue. The country club’s board wanted to make best use of the land already housing their parking, so they turned to outside sources to assist in this exploration. Having already established a working relationship with Firmo Construction on previous solar projects, our expertise was sought by Dick Kanter, a renewable energy investor.

The Plan

Mr. Kanter had already begun work with solar energy company, Solar Direct, also based in Sarasota, Florida, on initial concepts for a unique solar photovoltaic (PV) panel-powered hydraulic lift parking system. The system would allow the club to maximize its parking by doubling the amount of spaces, while keeping the required ground space virtually unchanged. After reviewing the concepts, our team devised some construction modifications that allowed for a 70 percent reduction in cost for building the prototype.

The Prototype

Once all parties were aligned, Firmo began work on the lift. The prototype’s initial goal was to expand 10 parking spaces into 20, proving that this build would be executed sustainably and efficiently. Anchoring steel beams into the ground through large footing structures created a solid, stable base. An unexpected challenge arrived early in construction in the form of Hurricane Irma, however, despite this, our team maintained a quick turn around on the build out.

After all structures were constructed, solar PV panels were placed across the entirety of the roof. Each individual parking stall was then fitted with a controller to operate a hydraulic lift. Using a combination of electrical and solar power, the unique structure was created to provide single car parking on a platform which elevates, allowing for an additional car to be parked underneath. With successful completion of the prototype, it is now the decision of the board to determine how to move forward with replication of the structure throughout the entirety of the club’s designated parking area.

Key aspects for consideration are the reduction of land waste, cost savings through quick amortization of equipment, possible tax credits, and predominant solar assistance creating an excess surplus of energy, which also provides a net zero cost. Structures like this provide many advantages, primarily in regards to sustainability. Essentially, the parking lot transforms into a power plant, providing minimal impact on the environment, while saving green space, which aligns with our company’s mission.

Photo Courtesy of Runaway Solar

The Results

Our company views this remarkable prototype as an innovative solution for cities struggling with overcrowding and a shortage of available land for growth. With easy customization and quick replication, installation could provide immediate results with budgetary and environmental savings. Cities like Sarasota, which experience seasonal fluctuations in population but with a dedication to green initiatives, could see a tangible benefit in solving overcrowding in areas where expansions are needed. Areas that would benefit the most would be staff parking for large operations, managed parking for hospitals and hotels, and congested downtown areas where land need is greatest and comes with a high premium.

Photo Courtesy of Runaway Solar

System benefits

The advantages a parking structure similar to our prototype can bring include not only economic benefits, but also environmental and community benefits.

Positive community impacts of the prototype include the fact that the parking system is built at a lower cost than a concrete parking structure, while still increasing parking lot capacity and freeing up land for more productive use or preservation.

Economically, the parking system provides the opportunity to generate income if combined with net metering. There are also tax benefits that are associated with accelerated equipment amortization versus building structure. Eligibility for federal, state, and local renewable energy incentivesis also a possibility.

The environmental impacts of the prototype include a reduction in storm runoffs as well as pollution due to decrease in paved impervious area. The heat island effect that can result from paved parking areas is also drastically minimized. And finally, a parking structure like this can contribute toward earning environmental certifications, such as LEED.

If you are interested in an audit of your parking use or learning more about the benefits this system provides, please contact Eric Collin with Firmo Construction at eric@firmoconstruction.com.