Parking area is a small piece of land in which we park our vehicle and drive-way is the approach leading to this parking bay. Though every square foot counts in terms of money and the demand for built up space is high, lack of adequate parking space and turning radius is bad planning.
Whether it be a individual house, a small or large apartment complex, corporate business house, a multi-building campus or public facilities such as airports or stations, a lot of thought needs to go into the design of parking facilities. Parking lots whether for houses or office complex have to be designed not just for the present but with an eye on the future. Kerb side parking is also very important and an essential part of urban design.
We have to adopt different norms when designing parking lots for residences, small or large apartment complexes, offices, commercial establishments, shopping complexes, a combination of shops and residences, hospitality sector, public spaces such as airports, railway and bus stations and recreation zones, campuses and so on. Thus, parking space can be decided depending on the nature of the activity. Road landscaping, which includes kerb side parking and public parking facilities, will also have to be dealt with as this is the base for smooth flow of traffic.
International norms for parking suggest that small and medium cars require about 200 sq.ft. The turning radius for various categories of vehicles is also stipulated ranging from about 30 ft. to less than 500 ft. for large trailer trucks. These figures may not make much sense to the common man whose primary need is to comfortably drive his vehicle in and out of a parking lot whether it be in his home, office or public spaces.
When looking at parking for residences or apartments, the one norm to be strictly followed is that the gate must never open onto the road. When vehicles are jammed into small parking lots the gate will have to be opened outward to allow entry and exit and thus there is a major inconvenience. When designing the gate it is necessary to keep it to normal size about 8 ft. If the size of the gate cannot be widened to help easy turning it may be good idea to go in for a bell mouth at the entrance where a slightly inset gate will provide a wider entry point of about 11 ft. to 13 ft.
Another point to be noted is that one must provide parking space for owned vehicles inside one’s compound and not to drive cars onto side walks or in front of your neighbour’s house. The residents and associations must never compromise for squeezing into a single parking slot more than one vehicle even if it were just for the night.
Parking for apartments is either provided alongside the building and is uncovered, or takes the form of covered parking at basement or the ground floor levels. When looking at the parking lot of any apartment, the first thing one has to note is the approach from the road. It must neither be a steep climb nor a sharp descent. If the parking is below or above road level it is safe to have a gradual slope approach. If parking slots are between stilts one must make sure that the distance between the pillars is adequate to park and reverse a car without having to turn very sharply.
When parking lots are provided alongside buildings, what owners’ should insist upon is that there must be enough space for free movement of another vehicle along side a parked one. In other words there should be a minimum 10ft. wide space between the parking slot and the building to allow vehicles to move around.
When designing parking for independent houses four factors come to play. These are the positions of the gate, the porch, the drive and a garage. These factors have to be studied and decided even as the design of the house is taking shape.
In the event of having a garage it needs to be located at the end of the drive and the drive design must allow room for reversing the car into or out of the garage. The option of securing the garage with shutters or leaving it open on the sides is an option depending more on the security aspect. Also if the garage were to double as an extended attic, then it is necessary to provide space for washing of cars alongside the garage. The garage and the utility area need to have proper flooring that efficiently drains the water.
In small sized plots it may not be possible to accommodate a drive and a garage. Given the need to provide larger built-up space for two cars and a gate or may be two gates that allow easy access and exiting, the only option available is to allow cars to be piled on one behind the other. In such cases one can bring in porches that could stretch across the entire parking area. These porches can be worked out further by providing an upper deck that can either be landscaped or used as living space or balconies. It would be good to avoid kerb wall level planter boxes as these may come in the way of reversing vehicles, especially larger ones.
As the plot grows in size the options in designing a drive that connects the porch to the gate and perhaps the garage are many. In most cases architects prefer a sweeping drive that curves into the porch as this is best suited for both access and reverse and also because this design, though simple, is the most aesthetic. Providing meandering pathways in the front lawn for which the drive would most often be the boundary can also complement it. Also in the event of more cars being parked at night, the curve in the drive will help easy reversing of vehicles even if there are vehicles parked all along the drive.
When choosing drive way material it would be a good option to go in for loose paving. This will allow good percolation of water and improve rain-harvesting. The interspersed grass would green the drive. Also individual stones that may be damaged or stained in course of time can be replaced.
Once we have decided to park the vehicles in the porch, we must decide on the size of the porch which may have to accommodate more than two cars. Such large porches need not just be a roof resting on four pillars but can be transformed into a garden in itself. Strategically located planter boxes, landscaped niches, alcove windows looking out into the lawn or small open-to-sky landscaped court yards make the porch something more than a bland parking bay.
The roof of the porch is also an integral part of design. The options range from deciding whether to go in for a concrete roof or a pergola. Another aspect of porch design would be the flooring material and we will have to keep in mind when choosing flooring material that it must be weather proof, stain proof and non-slippery.
It must also be kept in mind for houses spread over a large area that the children’s play zone should be away from the drive, preferably on the other side of the house.