This Australian Startup Is Elevating Modular Parking
ParkD aims to bring big changes to the parking structure industry
Many property owners struggle to supply enough parking and need flexible and fast solutions to accommodate their customers. At the same time, other owners have more parking than customers—particularly large retail spaces challenged by the rise of Amazon.com.
Now, modular parking structures are becoming an increasingly popular solution, but are typically quite limited in scale. Temporary prefabricated parking structures made of steel can be assembled on appropriate sites or even on top of existing concrete parking structures, but they’re usually constrained to only a few levels.
But Peter McUtchen, the chief operations officer of Australian startup ParkD Ltd., has developed and delivered a highly scalable modular parking structure that incorporates pre-cast concrete that can be designed according to the client’s specifications and stand up to 10 stories.
This is a game-changing technology for the prefabricated market, which is continuing to grow around the world. McCutchen said ParkD has enquiries coming from both private and public sectors such as automotive retail, retail sector infrastructure, airports, sports associations and local state governments for train stations and bus stations.
Fit for the future
Furthermore, as automotive technology changes to include autonomous vehicles, electric vehicles and ride-sharing, ParkD incorporates those future realities into its designs. ParkD lots have electric charging stations as well as wireless connectivity for autonomous vehicles.
McUtchen said most clients are looking for modular parking in the range of six or seven stories. At that size, McUtchen said, ParkD could “have that design within two weeks, shop drawings within another week and we could begin manufacturing in the third week.”
He added: “Depending on how big the job is, it takes about a 10-week manufacturing period, and you’d start on-site work usually in week eight of manufacturing. So, that means 11 weeks, and the construction time for a car park of six or seven storeys is down to 35 days of construction.”
By contrast, a typical parking garage of poured concrete would require anywhere from 1-2 years from design to function and would sit permanently until it was demolished, McUtchen said.
A ParkD system can be assembled and – just as important for today’s property owner – disassembled relatively quickly. As McUtchen describes: “It really is a little bit like a big set of Legos or Meccano. Everything just bolts together and it’s sort of pre-done. It’s very satisfying to see it go up.”
Bluebeam Revu is an instrumental part of ParkD’s approach to design.
“The way we digest enquiries and design is in the first instance to look at an aerial photo or Google or an air map, drop that into a Bluebeam like a title block, and then we put down an initial arrangement and that will give us a pricing program,” McUtchen said. “It’s the first thing our clients see … and the fact that its modular means that we use the toolbox within Bluebeam as a key function.”
For a modular business such as ParkD, Revu offers particular advantages. “It’s all the same,” McUtchen said. “You pick things out of that toolbox and it makes it very efficient in putting together sketches, and it impresses our clients when you can knock together a 3D render of their projects. It’s quite convincing for them to head into design consulting activities with park.”
ParkD is highly scalable – not only in the physical sense, but as a business. McUtchen and his partners made a crucial strategic decision early on to publicly list its shares for ParkD to bring in the capital needed for its growth ambitions.
“Australia is investing heavily in its commuter car parking, and on top of that there are other groups, particularly in the order of retail space, that have got an immediate demand and an immediate need for these car parks,” McUtchen said. “So, we’ve really come in at the right time.”
More recently, ParkD has two projects in a national roll-out, which has a “longer term design intensive at the front-end and aggregate into multiple car parks across Australia,” McUtchen said. “And outside of those larger project teams that we’re seeing coming in the next 3 or 4 months, there’s two particular projects that are heading towards construction, so we’ll need project engineers on the job to just keep an eye on the quality of manufacturing and assembly on site.”
Flexibility and scalability, not only in the size of the company’s product but in the size of its business, is crucial for ParkD’s success, McUtchen said, because “one particular client has 500 sites across Australia that potentially need car parks. So, on those types of jobs, you really need to have a strong team to deliver that number of car parks. It’s a big thing to bite off, but why we’re public, so that when we see that we need equity, when we need to grow quickly, then our investors will bring the commercial horsepower.”