Britain’s Institution of Structural Engineers (ISE) has released updated design guidance for multi-story car parks, or parking garages for people on the other side of the world, but we should take note here. Many parking garages weren’t constructed to deal with the current landscape of heavier cars. The hefty battery packs in electric vehicles are a factor in the increase, but even the typical combustion car on the road is getting heavier.
The ISE decided it needed to reassess parking garage standards for two reasons: The increase in average vehicle weight and the proliferation of electric vehicles. The increase in weight wasn’t caused by individual models getting heavier, but by the popularisation of heavier car classes. SUVs and pickup trucks are proving just as popular in the UK as they are here in the U.S. In a release, ISE noted:
The average vehicle’s weight has risen from 1.5 tonnes in 1974 to almost 2 tonnes today – due to electric and hybrid batteries and the size of cars increasing. This extra load and the changing fire safety requirements are all considerations not just for new car parks, but for existing structures too.
Electric vehicles are another concern as EVs are not only heavier than their combustion counterparts but also use parking spaces in a different way. Garages have become a convenient place to install charging stations, meaning that the structure would have to bear the weight of vehicles being stored for longer periods. The guidance is also adapted to deal with lithium-ion battery fires.
Ensuring that parking structures are safe isn’t just a matter of protecting expensive machines, but also protecting the lives of drivers, passengers and garage employees. ISE mentioned the importance of learning from previous collapses:
“Car park safety is paramount, especially given the learnings from structural failures, including the Pipers Row floor collapse in Wolverhampton, UK in 1997. And this guidance is made increasingly relevant with the recent, tragic collapse of a car park in Manhattan, New York which is currently being investigated.”
The parking structure collapse in New York killed one person and injured six more. A parking garage attached to a hospital in Florida also collapsed last month, thankfully resulting in no deaths or injuries but leaving 111 cars trapped indefinitely in the rubble. Both events are still under investigation.
Photo: Smith Collection/Gado (Getty Images)
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