Steel or Concrete for Sustainable Car Parking?

The terms “sustainable” and “sustainability” seem to come up more frequently in everyday life. In the real estate and property development communities, the terms are quite common when dealing with local planners and government bodies. And, one issue that appears never-ending is that of whether steel or concrete is the more sustainable building material.

If you aren’t entirely certain about the definition of sustainability, you’re not alone. There is no official definition and every group tends to bend the concept to fit its agenda. One of the more common definitions for sustainable development comes from a 1987 U.N. commission: “…sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” That pretty much encompasses just about everything and anything.

Back on the subject of steel versus concrete - you can well imagine that both industries have studies that show their material is the most sustainable. There are, however, a number of independent studies, and one of the most thorough treatments is a 156-page, 2006 Master’s Degree thesis from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). The author quantified the requirements to produce steel and concrete as building materials and their impact on sustainability in terms of total energy consumption, natural resources consumed and CO2 emissions produced.

The MIT study concluded that it takes about the same amount of energy to produce equivalent amounts of both steel and concrete. Steel was judged to produce about 25% fewer CO2 emissions than concrete due primarily to the large amount of fossil fuel burned to produce cement. In the resource consumption analysis, steel had nearly a 4-to-1 advantage that seems logical. On a pound-for-pound basis, steel is simply much stronger than concrete. Rather than declaring steel the more sustainable building material, the study points to numerous variables and sustainability criteria that make impossible any general conclusion.

We can point to some other sustainability issues worth considering when it comes to the choice between steel and concrete, however:

  • Steel structures typically have much shorter construction times
  • Disturbance to local surroundings is reduced with steel construction
  • Future vertical expansion is easier with steel structures
  • Relocating concrete structures is difficult if not impossible
  • For below grade structures, steel requires much less excavation work
  • Steelwork can be more readily designed for aesthetic value
  • Steel, of course, is highly recyclable

Automated parking systems from Skyline can utilize all steel structures beyond the foundation. Is concrete better? The choice is up to you. Contact your Skyline representative to learn more.


The Perfect Car Parking Valet: Man or Machine?

What is there not to love about valet parking? You drive up, hand someone your keys and they zip off to park your car. However, not everyone would agree that this is such a great thing. Some of the anxieties might include:

  • Will the valet person really take care of my car? No bumps or dings?
  • Are the things in my car going to be safe? From the valet? From someone else?
  • Is my car going to be parked in a secure area?
  • Why do I hear all those squealing tires?
  • Does the valet have to drive my car through city traffic?
  • I’ve heard stories about valet parking…
  • How much do I have to tip?
This is not an effort to disparage anyone in the valet parking industry. These are simply questions anyone might have when giving a complete stranger control of something as expensive and valued as a car along with all the personal stuff inside.

Would it make a difference if the valet was a machine instead of human? Let’s re-visit the earlier concerns but replace the valet person with an automated parking system (APS).

  • In an APS, no one drives your car, therefore bumps and dings are a virtual impossibility
  • Since you maintain control of the keys, no strangers enter the car
  • With no public access, the parking area of an APS is very secure
  • Your car is gently transported by machine to and from its parking spot
  • The car is parked right in the facility where you drop it off
  • Have you heard any stories about automated parking systems?
  • The APS does not look for a tip nor have anyway to accept one
To be fair, there are some advantages the human valet may have over the mechanical valet. The mechanical valet can’t offer a smile or cheer you up after a bad day at work. Don’t expect the mechanical valet to help you put your groceries in your car, either. Then again, the automated parking system won’t change the radio station or move the driver’s seat.