We interviewed Paul Wessel, the Executive Director of the Green Parking Council, to learn more about how they are revolutionizing the role environmental sustainability plays in the parking industry. Read on to learn more about GPC’s mission and what you can do to make your parking operations more sustainable and economical.
ParkingExec (PE): How did you originally get involved in the GPC?
Paul Wessel (PW): I was a strong proponent of accountable public-private partnerships in my earlier municipal work. I developed a collaboration with a bank, utility, business improvement district and parking operator to launch an electric-powered trolley bus to expand downtown mobility in New Haven, CT.
I later took over the city’s traffic and parking department and then moved to a foundation advocating for health care reform for Connecticut’s businesses and residents. That combination of work piqued the interest of GPC’s visionary and its board chair, Propark’s John Schmid. We had lunch, I came on board as the executive director, and the rest is history.
PE: Before the GPC, what role did environmental sustainability play in the parking industry?
PW: The GPC functioned as an aggregator and amplifier for the parking industry.
Both individually and institutionally, parking and transportation professionals were already trying to figure out how best they could contribute to the growing recognition that we’ve only got one planet.
GPC’s open source process, our partnership program, and our strong board of directors grounded in the parking, real estate, and technology industries allowed us to cast a net wide in identifying a variety of approaches repositioning parking as part of the solution rather than poster child for the problem.
We amassed great ideas on how to reduce energy consumption, promote multiple forms of sustainable mobility, mitigate stormwater runoff, generate renewable energy, reduce auto emissions, and otherwise move towards more sustainable parking. GPC created the space and the tool for the industry to figure all this out.
PE: What is the biggest accomplishment of the GPC to date in terms of impact on the parking industry?
PW: The owners of parking garages and lots–real estate interests of one sort or another–had long overlooked their parking assets as an opportunity for operating a more sustainable portfolio.
Our demonstration projects, education, and Green Garage Certification program opened the eyes of commercial real estate owners, investors, universities, airports, casinos, retail facilities, cities, hospitals, and others to the potential in their parking operations.
We also helped connect the dots between the parking facility and the connected driver/commuter. Bringing the pieces together was our most important act.
PE: You announced the first seven Green Certified garages in July. That’s a huge win. What is the next big initiative for the GPC?
PW: To grow! 33 sites are now registered for Green Garage Certification and we’re starting to field calls from China and Mexico.
We’ve been having great discussions with the team behind the US Green Building Council’s LEED program about collaborating to expand our collective work both in the US and internationally.
Acknowledging that transportation produces 30% of all US global warming emissions, and that 60% of that comes from cars and light trucks, USGBC’s new CEO noted that the parking garage is the connection between the building and the transportation network, so this is an opportunity ripe for the picking. Stay tuned for news on that.
PE: SpotHero recently became partners with the GPC. How will similar wayfinding technology affect the future of parking sustainability?
PW: First of all, thank you for your partnership. Green Garage Certification would not be a reality today with the time and financial contributions of so many forward-thinking companies.
Cars are getting smarter, people are getting smarter, and garages are getting smarter. All these smarts help us save time, energy, and reduce emissions.
Navigant Research, the leading clean tech research group, explains: “‘Smart parking’ technology enables drivers to reduce emissions by quickly finding a desirable parking spot and reduces the use of resources by matching the supply of parking locations to demand.”
Apps like SpotHero help parking owners and operators maximize use of the existing parking supply and so help reduce pressure to build unnecessary parking; at the same time, these wayfinding tools reduce circling and the resulting emissions from travelers otherwise blindly searching for a place to park.
PE: Mobile technology is changing transportation a lot. There are apps that make it easier for people to get around via public transportation and ride-sharing. What do you think will be the biggest impact of mobile transportation apps on parking and the environment?
PW: Apps are evolving into the “easy button” for mobility. No matter how I am connected–through my phone, my dashboard, or my computer–apps that connect me to my destination and give me choices about transportation modes and parking are going to help promote efficient use of resources, including my time, my dollars, and my carbon “budget.”
In addition to giving me the information to make an informed choice–do I walk, drive, bus, Uber, ride my bike today?–these apps (combined with “right” pricing of all the options) will help us all make maximum use of existing transportation capacity: “Wow, the bus is coming in 7 minutes and costs $1.50. It’ll spare me the $17 parking fee, and I can take Uber home after I hit the bars tonight….”
PE: What is the emerging tech trend with the greatest potential to make parking more green?
PW: While not a tech trend, the density that arises with urbanization creates extraordinary potential for all sorts of technology to deliver more sustainable forms of transport. Over half the world’s population lives in urban areas and that’s expected to rise to upwards of 70% by 2050.
Bus rapid transit, car sharing, electric scooter and bike sharing, and light rail all become economically viable and easily accessible with density and “the internet of things.” So I guess I see a chemical reaction of people and connectivity as creating a sustainable opportunity for us.
PE: What is your best advice for an operator looking to make their parking operations more sustainable? What are the easiest things to do that make the biggest impact?
PW: Download the GPC’s How Green is Your Garage one-page checklist. Seriously. Just taking a look at it will help you think about your parking facility in a different way. After that, you can do a deeper dive on our website.
If you haven’t looked at your lighting in while–whether it be a garage or lot–you’re probably passing up better quality lighting at a lower cost. Technology is improving and prices are dropping so rapidly, people are now starting to upgrade their upgrades!
For enclosed garages, high-performance ventilation technology offers a great opportunity for saving energy and money too.
If you want more ideas, feel free to reach out to me at email@example.com
Paul Wessel, Executive Director, leads the Green Parking Council (GPC), a national 501(c)(3) organization fostering green parking practices through certification and credentialing programs, open-sourced standards, professional leadership and educational development. Paul led the 2014 launch of the GPC’s Green Garage Certification program and has developed partnerships with BOMA, IFMA, the Department of Energy, and the US Green Building Council to further the mission of high-performance parking. He has presented on sustainable parking to the American Planning Association, CBRE, Colliers, the National Governors Association, the Urban Land Institute, and the Better Buildings Alliance.