Grounds Management, Maintenance and Operations

Parking Structures—Be Smart about Maintenance

As a facilities manager, are you prepared for the task of managing a parking structure? These multistory facilities are complex. A parking structure is more like a highway bridge than a traditional building with an envelope because a parking structure’s framing system is exposed to environmental conditions that include freezing and thawing cycles, moisture, and contaminants. It must also endure dynamic loads from the motion of vehicles. These harsh conditions can lead to scaling, spalling, and cracking of the concrete and the deterioration of steel. If left unchecked, the structural integrity of the parking structure will be compromised. These challenges require you to have a specialized maintenance plan for your facility’s parking structure.

Modern Parking Garage at Night

Tim Roberts Photography / Shutterstock.com

Prevent Costly Repairs

The costs of operating a parking structure can increase dramatically, and the life of the structure may be cut short if the proper maintenance is not performed. As a facilities manager, to protect the asset, be proactive by performing regular inspections and conducting operation and structural maintenance activities.

Each facility is different—maintenance requirements will vary depending on its age, its geographic location, the material it is made of (e.g., precast concrete, conventional concrete, or posttensioned concrete), and its intensity of use.

Here, we discuss some operations and maintenance best practices—but be sure to implement a plan tailored to your facility’s specific needs.

Operational Maintenance

Operational maintenance should be performed to ensure that the parking structure operates safely and effectively. The following is a checklist of the housekeeping, maintenance, and inspection tasks that should be performed.

Daily

  • Empty trash cans.
  • Clean and sweep occupied spaces such as elevator floors and interiors; elevator lobbies; public and employee restrooms; and employee work spaces and/or offices.
  • Inspect lights to ensure they are working in elevators, stairways, and exits.
  • Remove graffiti.
  • In the cold season, promptly remove snow and ice, and check for proper drainage.

Weekly

  • Empty Dumpsters.
  • Clean stairways of debris.
  • Power sweep parking decks—more frequent dry sweeping will reduce the frequency of required washdowns.
  • Clean debris from grates.
  • Inspect parking facility interior and exterior lights to ensure they are working.
  • Inspect heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) and control systems.
  • Clean parking control equipment (e.g., gate systems, access systems, pay machines), and ensure it is in working order.

Monthly

  • Degrease parking decks—motor oil and gas collect on these surfaces. These pollutants can be washed down sewers and end up degrading local bodies of water. Choose an oil degreaser and other cleaning products that won’t have a negative environmental impact.
  • Clean expansion joint seals.
  • Inspect the dry standpipe system.
  • Inspect smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors to ensure they are in working condition. If many diesel vehicles park in the structure, it may also have a nitrogen dioxide detector.

Semiannually

  • Inspect the electrical system (e.g., outlets, switches, junction boxes, cover plates, fire extinguisher alarm, timers, exterior lighting photocells).
  • Inspect the plumbing system for leaks—look at floor drains, inlet grates, downspouts, etc.
  • Power wash the parking decks to remove salts that break down concrete. In coastal areas, this should be performed as frequently as monthly. If you are located more inland, power washing can be performed less frequently, such as once in the spring and once in the fall. An effective power washing system can use either chemicals or ionized water.
  • Clean the light fixtures.
  • Inspect transformers.
  • Test the fire protection system.
  • If your location experiences cold weather, inspect snowplows and order deicing supplies in the fall before wintry weather hits.

Structural Maintenance

Structural maintenance must be performed to ensure the structural integrity of the facility. Implementing a plan will help you remain proactive and avoid significant problems and costly repairs in the long run.

Watch Out for Water!

Water is one of the biggest threats to a parking structure because it can rust and damage the reinforcing steel, weakening the entire structure.

  • Regularly be on the lookout for signs of water leakage, such as rust on exposed metal, rust stains on the walls, and efflorescence (salty, crystalline deposit on the surface of concrete).
  • Watch for ponding water—if you find it, installing a drain or protective waterproof membrane may be a good solution.
  • If you see exposed rebar, you must act immediately. Rebar that comes into contact with water corrodes and expands to multiple times its original size. This expansion can crack the surrounding concrete, making the initial problem much worse.

The following additional inspection and maintenance tasks should be performed:

Quarterly

  • Inspect joint sealant systems. Check expansion joints, construction joints, sealants, and the traffic-bearing membrane. Joints are places where water can creep in and damage the steel, so ensure there are no leaks.
  • Check the concrete for cracks.
  • Check the floor systems (e.g., concrete, posttensioned steel, reinforcing steel, and welded wire reinforcement) for wear.
  • Check beams, columns, and walls for wear.
  • Inspect structural steel and connections for rust.
  • Inspect guardrails and handrails for damage.

 Annually

  • Perform chloride ion testing. Over time, fine surface cracks can develop that allow chloride ions to penetrate down to the reinforced steel bars, resulting in corrosion. Chloride ion testing should be performed to determine the percent of chloride present. If maintenance is required, you may conduct waterproofing and/or crack treatment. Note that posttensioned concrete structures tend not to develop surface cracks, so these treatments may not be required.

Green Your Maintenance Plan with Parksmart

Green Business Certification Inc. (GBCI), the administrator of the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) green building certification program, also oversees Parksmart, a sustainability certification for parking structures that incorporates green cleaning and maintenance practices. The goals of the program include cutting operational costs, reducing the environmental impact of the facility, promoting alternate modes of transportation, and better managing parking spaces.

Any aboveground or underground new or existing multilevel structure (i.e., no surface parking) is eligible to earn the certification. Due to the required documentation, it may be more difficult for existing structures to achieve certification. New construction—or projects completed within 2 years of registration—may earn bronze, silver, or gold certification levels, while existing structures may earn the pioneer certification level, with fewer required points.

Check out some parking structures that have achieved this sustainability certification here.