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Special Jury Award: Car Park Design

British Parking Awards 2023

Mark Moran
01 October 2023
Car Park Design
Car Park Design


With the publication of Car Park Design, the Institution of Structural Engineers has brought design concepts, themes and issues into the 21st century.

The IStructE’s has set the standard for car park design for more than 45 years. The institution first published guidance in 1976 called Design recommendations for multi-storey and underground car parks, with three further editions published. The most recent, released in 2011, reflected the considerable changes in car park design, especially the learnings from numerous serious structural fears, including the Pipers Row deck collapse in Wolverhampton during 1994.

The new guidance builds on that legacy to provide completely revised and updated information for anyone involved in car park design, construction, maintenance and re-use. But Car Park Design is not a 5th edition, but a completely refreshed document.

The mission IStructE set was to produce completely new guidance that shows how car park designs have adapted to the needs of a changing society. A senior in-house publisher worked closely with a team of specialist authors for over two years to ensure the editorial quality of the product was commensurate with the technical expertise of the authors. Indeed, IStructE consciously deviated from its usual house style to give the authors more profile, so detailed author biographies span three pages.

The new book the team produced, Car Park Design, reflects the significant changes to vehicular size, weight and manoeuvrability in recent years, to offer modern guidance on parking bay sizes and deck loadings. Hybrid and electric vehicle use, together with the need for inclusive design and a far greater emphasis on sustainable solutions, have necessitated a completely new approach to internal layouts and other requirements for structural design — including the minimisation of fire spread. There are also chapters dedicated to futureproofing, quality control during construction, suicide prevention measures, asset management, and special car parks such as those with robotic systems.

Safety and sustainability are key themes running through the guidance, which is ahead of the game compared to current design standards. This is important, as structural engineers consider the safety of structures from design and construction through to operation and demolition, in accordance with local legislation.

Contents and structure

The themes contained in the guidance are extensive. They were chosen after undertaking a review of current documentation with a view to plugging any shortfalls and above all to set new standards of design. The editorial team ensured that the content is well coordinated, original and not just a repetition of current codes of practice.

The new guidance says: “The pace of change towards autonomous and semi-autonomous vehicles is also accelerating, and car parks will need to be designed to accommodate this. Car sizes and weights are increasing and modes of transport are also changing – with electric cycles and scooters becoming mainstream, and a significant increase in traditional bicycle use.”

The guidance is in two parts: the first focusses on conceptual design and is primarily intended for clients, architects and project managers; the second focusses on the detailed design, primarily intended for structural engineers and the wider construction
industry and maintenance teams.

Virtually everything has changed when compared to the previous design recommendations:

  • guidance on parking bay sizes has been updated
  • the loadings on the structure and cladding have increased
  • information on electric vehicle (EV) chargepoints reflects current and likely future scenarios
  • guidance on accessibility for all users, including the need for inclusive design, have been included
  • the fire recommendations have been upgraded
  • and details about modern payment systems and controls have been introduced.

From the very start, achieving clarity was of paramount importance. The guidance draws heavily on high quality imagery to help bring concepts and actual examples, to life. It includes:

  • 3D models to illustrate the positives and negatives of different parking layouts
  • chapters on sustainability, achieving zero carbon design and futureproofing to ensure that designs are adaptable to meet future needs, including the introduction of autonomous vehicles
  • guidance on designing out risks such as suicide, theft, personal attack and fire following the Kings Dock multi-storey car park fire in Liverpool during 2017 in which 1,390 cars were destroyed
  • a ‘designing for construction’ section that includes asset management to be consistent with the Institution of Civil Engineers’ Recommendations for Inspection, Maintenance and Management of Car Park Structures
  • modifying and upgrading existing structures along with special structures (i.e. mechanical car parks) is now included too.

Building awareness

The guidance was solely funded by IStructE as an in-house project. The chair, co-author and authors gave their time and expertise freely, which is a reflection of their passion about their subject expertise and willingness to promote it.

Media relations focussed on a public interest angle: the safety of car parks given that electric vehicles are now much heavier. The guide made headlines, securing over 70 pieces of media coverage including BBC Radio 4 and Chris Whapples was name-checked on BBC One’s Have I Got News for You, twice!

The guidance will be regularly reviewed by the Institution’s Technical Products Panel to ensure that it remains accurate and relevant. Car Park Design is considered to be a ‘living document’ whereby suggestions for change or notification of errors identified by either the panel or by the wider readership, can be considered and implemented quickly.

Marketing the guidance

In-house communications and publishing teams at IStructE worked together with the authors to raise awareness of the guidance, produced during a time of great change for the parking industry. IstructE also worked with the British Parking Association to create an exclusive offer for BPA members for purchasing the guidance. The effectiveness and impact can be measured by success factors including:

  • Publishing sales: As a priced product from IStructE, the publishing team opened pre-sales several months in advance of publication to generate interest and discount. Initial sales exceeded expectations and within one month stand at in excess of 250 copies. This is an excellent early-stage result for niche, but important, guidance. And as a charity, any surplus generated from sales is reinvested into the profession.
  • Subscription-based downloads: 10-12 weeks from publication, the guidance will be available to those holding either IHS (Construction Information Service) or Knovel (Elsevier) subscriptions. We expect unique downloads from these channels to exceed 2,000 per year globally.

Communications were kept streamlined with a news release for the UK and global media. social media and marketing activity to engage members and others in the guidance with the aim of both generating sales and also public awareness:

Media relations focussed on public interest angle – the safety of car parks given that electric vehicles are now much heavier – the guidance makes this clear, saying: “There are important safety and economic implications of the increasing size and weight of the “average vehicle” up from 1.5t in 1974 to almost 2.0t today and the heavier vehicles weighing in at over 3.0t. These increased loadings and the changing fire safety requirements are all considerations not just for new car parks but in the thousands which already exist today.”

Mark Pundsack and Chris Whapples were quoted in the news release, with Chris speaking to the media including Radio 4’s More or Less; Chris and Mark were also quoted in various trade, local, national and international media outlets. As a result, we secured approximately 72 pieces of media coverage including top tier key broadcast outlets such as BBC Radio 4.

Marketing was very focussed on relevant members and students. A SOLUS email was sent to some 8,000 contacts with an open rate of over 40% which is better than the industry average. (A good email open rate should be between 17-28%).

LinkedIn was the main social channel as we wanted to engage specific audiences. IStructE posted an “order now” alert for the guidance which received 5,060 impressions and an engagement rate of 2.3% which for LinkedIn is above industry average.

When IStructE planned the communications, it was aware that cars and car usage are contentious issues, especially given infrastructure concerns regarding their use in towns and cities.It thus considered how the guidance could cause public concern about car parks collapsing due to EVs. So, Chris Whapples was very clear in his media interviews to both raise the issues with car park design, while not causing public alarm.

The team

Car Park Design was produced by a multi-disciplinary team:

Chair: Mark Pundsack, assistant district surveyor at the  City of London and Fellow of IStructE

Overseeing consultant: Chris Whapples, independent consultant and Fellow of IStructE.


  • Peter Guest, consultant
  • Dan Gullock, director, Fatkin Architects
  • Alan McBryan, regional director, AECOM
  • Fiona Petch, director, Fatkin Architects
  • Peter Robery, director, Robery Forensic Engineering
  • Russell Simmons, chief executive, Ballast Nedam UK and founder, Stripe Consulting
  • Jeff Stewart, technical director, Ballast Nedam UK
  • Chris Watkins, senior consultant, access and design team, Arup


  • N Ely, Environment Agency
  • Gordon Deuce, chief engineer, Mace Group

Publisher: Lee Baldwin, head of publishing, IStructE


Stuart Harrison, chief strategic officer, Intelli-Park: “As President of the British Parking Association, I cannot agree more that this publication is of paramount importance to everyone involved in the design, development, and delivery of parking facilities. The Institution of Structural Engineers, the collective of authors, many of whom are BPA members, should be congratulated for their seminal contribution to continuous improvement and raising standards in car park safety and design.”

Guy Kippen, development manager, Prime: “As a developer leading the delivery of parking improvements for the NHS across the country, the new IStructE Car Park Design is a very useful document. It assists us and our NHS partners in ensuring that we are delivering facilities which are fit for purpose now and into the future, based upon industry expert opinion and advice.”

Deni Krevesic, principal transport planner, Glanville Consultants: “As a Chartered Transport Planning Professional with extensive experience in securing planning permissions for various car parks, including both multi-storey and surface car parks. Having worked in this industry for years, I was thrilled to see new Design Car Park guidelines is published, considering that the parking standards have remained unchanged for decades. The new guidelines exceeded my expectations, bringing a breath of fresh air to the industry.

“What sets these comprehensive guidelines apart is their consideration of user experience, inclusive design, the growing prominence of electric vehicles and many other factors. It offers innovative solutions that propel parking facilities into the future. While reading through the guidelines, I could not help but wonder if car parks are evolving into modern power stations, sending petrol stations into a well-deserved retirement.

“There is no doubt that these new guidances will change the approach to how we design car parks and how people experience them. I highly recommend this book to my fellow transport planners, engineers, and anyone involved in car park design. It is an invaluable resource that will undoubtedly enhance the understanding and expertise in car park design.”

Michael Clarke, head of technical services, National Car Parks: “As a car park operator trying to visualise what the future of car parking will look like, it would be better with a crystal ball, but the new IStructE Car Park Design guidance has given us some clarity in this regard. It is a forward thinking document and offers designs that are focussed on the end user whilst not forgetting that the car parks have to be maintained in order to get the best out of them. Also being formatted in two distinct parts allows us to easily access the relevant sections.”

Kristof Schlueter, sales manager, Goldbeck Construction: “The IStructE guide is very comprehensive and an important source to finding the right approach in the design of state-of-the-art MSCPs. We really welcome the much-needed update and especially the move to larger bay sizes which reflect the requirements of today’s motorists.”

Markus Lauble, managing director, HUBER car park systems: “I was intrigued to read the new Car Park Design from IStructE. I look to the future of car park design with great optimism and look forward to consulting the guide and determining the best design within the perimeters set.”

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