By Mike Benford

Let’s face it, parking structure construction is not sexy but it is important to the growth of a city, traffic patterns, the people (and cars) using them, as well as to companies who need and want to provide efficient and safe parking for its employees and clients. Setting the stage for a successful parking project is just as important as it is for a high-rise project: determining the construction method that best benefits the project, choosing the right partner, and ensuring all parties have set expectations.

Delivery Method

Construction delivery methods include three non-traditional: Design Build, Design-Bid-Build, and Construction Manager at Risk. These methods are becoming increasingly popular within the construction industry because of the embedded turnkey solutions and potential for inclusion of prefabricated elements to further enhance the project schedule. Almost anyone looking to build a parking structure would be suited for one of these three delivery methods, but they are truly geared toward an owner with a tight schedule or for those who may not have the resources in-house to manage the project.

  • Design Build: A single entity approach that integrates design and construction under one contract; maximizes intuitive design and deployment of the newest technologies.
  • Design-Bid-Build: The traditional U.S. project delivery method which customarily involves three sequential project phases: design, procurement, and construction that offer better design control and competitive pricing.
  • Construction Manager at Risk (CMAR): A collaborative, concurrent and unified approach to Design and Construction while maintaining a traditional Contracting approach; saves time, ensures early cost-certainty, and maximizes efficiency.

Design Build is the fastest growing delivery method for all construction and specifically for parking facilities.  Parking structures are ideal for design-build delivery because of their repetitive nature, ability to be commoditized and the builders means and methods for construction. This delivery method leads to both cost and time savings for the client in design and construction. Some clients feel that design-build limits their ability to influence and control the design because the design team is contracted directly to the design builder. However, the delivery method has evolved, and many owners are now choosing progressive design-build. This method allows the client to be present at every stage of decision making and brings the entire team together from the beginning to make project first decisions. The client can maintain their selection criteria in this method by selecting based on team qualifications, cultural fit and design and construction fees. The selected team will work with the client to establish a target budget for the project and all will work within these parameters to maximize program and design.

Turnkey Solution

Building on the CMAR and design-build delivery principals discussed, turnkey parking structure solutions are gaining in popularity. These are ideal for property owners and developers who are searching for an expedited parking construction process. These solutions lead to expedited and more efficient projects, many times saving more than 30 percent on overall schedule and significant cost reduction due to construction means and methods and reduced fees. One such solution is ParkMAX (McCarthy/WGI product) which offers a streamlined, turnkey solution that maximizes not only time but also clients’ investments. ParkMAX allows clients to maximize their budget with functional design that can easily be adapted to fit their specific needs from design aesthetics, landscaping, car charging stations, smart parking systems and PARCS/payment options.

The Right Partner

Partnering with the right building team can make or break any project, including a parking structure project. The following are elements to consider when choosing the right partner:

  • A design-build partnership made up of firms who have a long history of success together delivering this product type
  • A vertically integrated design builder that can use their skill sets to expedite schedule and reduce overall cost
  • A partner that is flexible and can easily adjust the turnkey solution to specific needs
  • Transparency in both design and construction
  • A partner who aims to reduce your workload through the turnkey solution.  This should be an easy button.
  • Is focused on expedited delivery through prefabricated elements, design efficiencies, AHJ relationships and local experience
  • Understands the local geotechnical requirements and risks associated

These are the details in finding the right design and method for the project but a successful project starts when clients assess their overall parking needs and how their campus or property is going to function and look aesthetically. After this initial master planning view the client should zero in on the parking facility and determine baseline needs in terms of parking count, horizontal and vertical space, technology enhancements, ideal flow for safety, and ease of use and architectural façade. Many of the parking specific design firms and design-build general contractors can help with both master planning and feasibility studies. The quicker both the architect and builder are hired, the better the outcome. Together we are better, and that is the spirit of design-build.


Mike Benford is Director, Southern Region, McCarthy Building Companies. Mike has over 12 years of experience in the industry and is most passionate about delivering an exceptional client experience across all phases of a project’s life cycle. Most of his career has been focused on alternative delivery for parking structures and commercial projects across McCarthy’s Southern California and Southern regions.

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