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How Much Will My Parking Structure Cost? There’s An App for That

Image of How Much Will My Parking Structure Cost? There’s An App for That There are a wide variety of factors that affect the cost of a parking structure, such as the level of architectural detailing and the structural framing system.

One of the most commonly asked questions we receive from our clients is, “How much will my parking structure cost?”

As you can imagine, this is a loaded question. Every parking structure is unique, and arriving at an accurate cost estimate requires careful consideration of numerous factors. Some of the variables that affect the cost of building a parking structure are obvious, and you likely already have some idea of what you need. How many parking stalls? On how many levels? Will any be below grade? However, there is a lot more information that needs to be taken into account.

Beyond the basics, major cost factors include the structure’s location, the extensiveness of architectural detailing, and so on. To make things even more complex, material and labor costs can vary considerably based on geography, are market driven, and can have a significant impact on the bottom line.

Therefore, Watry Design set out to design a tool that would provide accurate construction cost estimates based on user input. Named “The Garagenator,” after California’s then- governor Arnold “The Terminator” Schwarzenegger, this calculator allows clients to get instant feedback simply by answering a few key questions about their vision for a new parking structure.

The Brain Behind the Tool

Years of parking focused experience has provided us with unique knowledge factors that affect a project’s cost. From the project’s location and local construction market to the foundation system and architectural finish, we understand how these important variables impact the bottom line. 

To develop a construction cost through the Garagenator, we maintain an in-house database of construction costs augmented by ongoing communications with many of the contractors who have built our parking structures. These contacts provide our office access to the most recent construction cost data, which includes line item cost breakdowns of our most recent parking structures.  We use this knowledge and practical input to continually update our in-house database of construction costs, which supports the Garagenator. The result is a calculator that can estimate the cost of building a parking structure with amazing accuracy.

The ability for clients to adjust their criteria during the design process and see the effect on cost has proven to be powerful tool that answers important questions clients have about building parking, while also educating them about what affects the cost and how that impacts design. The Garagenator’s value is truly demonstrated during concept or planning phases when there is little to no detail on drawings, and the project largely rests in the vision of our clients. 

Designing a new parking structure is exciting, and expectations can be high. The Garagenator serves as a unique and effective reference that can help manage expectations by quickly identifying different approaches to meeting both design and budgeting goals.

In addition to serving as an effective resource for clients, the Garagenator has also become widely used by contractors as a cost calculator, and has even served as a teaching tool in a university setting. The value of having a quick, simple and accurate parking structure cost calculator that takes a great deal of the complexity out of a complicated topic has offered incredible value to both clients and colleagues, all while providing the unparalleled customer service that the Watry Team constantly strives for.

Have you utilized the Garagenator? This month, we will be unveiling a new and dynamic 3-D massing feature to make it even more exciting to explore your future parking structure. 

About the Author

Albert Wong, SE, a licensed California structural engineer, has been creating parking solutions for over 20 years. In addition to having contributed to over 100 parking projects, Albert’s projects, such as the BART Fruitvale Parking Structure, have received recognition from the International Parking Institute and other associations. Albert is a member of the Structural Engineers Association, Design Build Institute of America and the International Parking Association.

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