Structured parking represents a significant investment not just in cost, but also in the impression a facility makes. As parking often provides the first impression a person has when they arrive at a destination, it is important that that impression enhances their experience. Therefore, protecting that investment with proper care and maintenance not only extends a parking facility’s lifespan and reduces future retrofit and repair costs, but also ensures that the user experience continues to provide that valuable positive first impression.
Since parking structures are typically an open building type with natural ventilation, they are exposed to harsh elements from wind, rain, snow, and freezing temperatures that accelerate deterioration and potential premature failure. If de-icing salts are used, chlorides in the salt will cause deterioration to happen even faster. In addition, the service life of sealers and sealants can vary widely and are affected by environmental and traffic conditions. They need to be replaced regularly to maintain the benefits.
While much can be done during the initial design to enhance the durability of concrete structures and minimize maintenance, parking facilities require regular upkeep to maximize their lifespan. An ongoing maintenance plan that includes routine sweeping, pressure washing and regular visual inspections by a facility manager can pay long-term dividends by keeping the structure friendly and pleasing to users, as well as identifying potential issues before they require more extensive repairs.
In addition to establishing a detailed cleaning and regular maintenance plan with daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, semi-annual and annual tasks, a Capital Improvement Plan can go a long way towards protecting a parking investment. An important part of this plan is regular condition assessments starting when the structure is 5-10 years old. In addition to identifying any structural issues that could affect a facility’s lifespan, condition assessments can also identify safety concerns that may impact users.
What to Expect from a Condition Assessment
Condition assessments are tailored according the age of the facility and the client’s goals. For younger structures, a visual assessment may be all that is needed to identify any areas of concern. Walk through inspections typically cover:
The walk through should also review life, safety and ADA-related issues involving guardrails, lighting, and slip-resistant surfaces. Mechanical, electrical, plumbing, fire protection, waterproofing systems and other specialty systems may also be evaluated by engineers specializing in those particular areas.
Older structures or those experiencing conditions such as leaks, spalling or excessive cracking can benefit from destructive testing to measure levels of deterioration and evaluate the remaining lifespan. Destructive testing provides a more thorough and comprehensive evaluation of concrete than is possible with a visual inspection, and may include:
While destructive testing is a more costly undertaking than a visual inspection, it provides extremely valuable analysis beyond what’s possible with just a visual inspection. This will serve as the basis for determining repair options and helping owners plan for the future, whether it be budgeting for future repair needs or planning for replacement of the structure.
Once the structure has been inspected, the team reviews the results and makes recommendations that can be categorized by level of importance or by a time-related budgeting program. For example, repairs can be categorized as critical and life safety, preventive maintenance or general maintenance and housekeeping. Time-budgeted repairs can be categorized as short term, mid-term or long term repairs. The final report can also include estimates of probable cost. This breakdown helps owners identify and prioritize the most important and impactful repairs according to their budget.
Battling the Enemy
It won’t come as a surprise to learn that water is the enemy. Some of the most common findings of condition assessments revolve around rust. Galvanizing exposed metal, applying an elastomeric membrane to the top deck and quickly routing and sealing any cracks that appear on the facility’s top deck can go a long way towards mitigating rebar rusting and water damage. While some owners balk at the upfront costs associated with this type of prevention, it can prove more cost effective in the long term.
Condition assessments can also comment on aspects of the structure that are no longer up to code, most importantly ADA and safety issues. While owners may not be required to update these items, ensuring a parking facility is safe and welcoming goes a long way towards improving the user experience.
The final report details the findings and recommendations so owners can take steps to begin repairs according to priorities and budget, and develop a long-term plan for making the most out of their parking investment.