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Green, and Not So Green

By John Van Horn

I received a release from the Green Parking Council (GPC) about its new program to “certify” garages as “green.” The U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED certification program has blown off parking, so, as one consultant told me, now we in the parking industry can certify ourselves.
I reviewed the GPC’s list of garages and the reasons they were certified, and I discovered that most were “green” because they used good common sense, took the market into consideration, and placed those features in their garages that would help them sell their product. Remember, most of these locations were built back when “green” was just a color.
A university garage got credit because it had bicycle parking. A garage next to a large office building got credit because it had preferential parking for carpoolers. A shopping center got credit because it installed guidance systems. Automatic pay stations were a big “green” feature, and, of course, putting in lighting that reduced electricity usage was a big winner.
Bicycles at a university, who would have thunk it. Office buildings promoting carpooling, egads. Parking guidance at shopping centers, boggles the mind. Pay-on-foot equipment, probably not a thought to reduced personnel costs. And, of course, who would install low-cost lighting except to save the planet?
In these and other cases, good business-related scenarios could and were made for their installation. After the fact, someone said, “Wow, that parking guidance not only attracted people to our shopping center, but it also got them parked quicker and cut down on pollution.”
The Green Parking Council receives support from auto companies, developers, utilities, businesses that manufacture and install charging stations, and of course parking operators. And rightly so.
The parking industry reasonably wants to get ahead of the pack and head off bad PR while attracting customers. If you have a charging station in your garage, people who need it will park there, and others will feel warm and cuddly about your company.
As a friend said, if calling something we do routinely “green” and that gets us credibility, then great. We will be green.
To me, it all seems a bit silly. Companies are green because it’s good business, it saves money and makes a better product. So why not? The silly part comes in when a manufacturer of parking equipment paints his equipment green and then sells it as a “green” product. Do people really fall for that?
If I were doing an advertising campaign and wanted to promote positive parking ideals, why not something such as, “We have been green for decades.” And then promote the sustainable activities and designs that parking facilities have had for years. My guess is that most garages built in the past 30 years have features that would be considered green.
The parking industry was using common sense, making good business decisions, and building sustainable garages before anyone ever thought about saving the planet. What this all means, I think, is that saving the planet is good business. Many of the things we do as a matter of course are environmentally sound. We just need to promote it in a different way.
This approach by the NPA, other industry organizations and the Green Parking Council will bring a lot of good PR to parking. Keep it up.
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In my comments above, I posited that being green was reasonable when it was also good business. Garages having green components usually have them because they benefit the parking business that resides in the garage.
But now let’s talk about charging stations. Can someone give me the wisdom of installing charging stations in garages? I understand the need to look green; however, will they ever be used to any great extent?
Robert Bryce, writing in National Review Online, is talking about companies who make batteries for electric vehicles (EVs) and their current troubles. The money quotes are as follows:
“Sure, GM may be able to resolve the problems with the Volt. But the big hurdle, as Menahem Anderman of Total Battery Consulting said in July 2010, remains lackluster demand.
“Why would a car buyer choose a Volt, which gets 40 miles per gallon on the highway and costs $41,000, when he could get a Chevy Cruze, which is nearly identical in size, gets better mileage, and costs less than half as much?
“Back in 2009, Johan de Nysschen, President of Audi of America, cannily predicted the Volt’s future: “No one is going to pay a $15,000 premium for a car that competes with a Corolla. … There are not enough idiots who will buy it.”
Nysschen may be a tad colorful in his choice of nouns, but if the vehicles don’t make economic sense to the buyer, will people buy them?
The numbers are devastating. In October 2011, GM sold more than 186,000 vehicles, of which 1,100 were Volts, and Nissan sold more than 86,000 cars, of which about 800 were Leafs. GM had targeted to sell 15,000 Volts, but through October, it had sold about one-third of that number. When you sell about 2 million cars a year, 15,000 is a pretty small number.
I know that people say that charging stations need to be in place to get people thinking about EVs; however, the Volt doesn’t need the charging station. Only the 100% electric Leafs require the stations, and they are selling even slower than the hybrid Volts.
Are we attempting to create a market where none exists? Can someone help me with this?
Would we make an investment in EV charging stations for their business model? Would we install them if they weren’t subsidized by the government? Do we think drivers are going to flock to parking garages because charging stations are there?
I’m here, ready to receive your comments, and I’ll print them. I just don’t get it.
Here’s wishing you and yours all the best for the New Year.

Article Abstract from January, 2012




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