I’m on a family trip in the Denver Metro area and I couldn’t help but take part in some parking site seeing. Totally normal, right?
A few years back, my friend Joe Cortright brought a new parking garage at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory to my attention. The garage holds 1,800 cars and cost the government $31.5 million dollars. The structure is certified LEED-NC Platinum and contains all sorts of features to reduce energy use and encourage activity for the 900 employees that use it, for free, every day. That’s right, 1,800 stalls for 900 drive-alone employees.
The lab is open for tours once a month, but not while I am here, and it’s a bit of a rigamarole for an employee to set up a visit, so I didn’t have much hope of making it into the structure. I decided to drive down to the South Entrance of the NREL facility and see how close I could get without getting in trouble.
Fortunately, there’s a bit of a parkland along the side of the garage and, after confirming I wouldn’t get in trouble, I was able to walk along side of the campus and see the garage up close and personal.
This is a BIG parking structure and it, like everything else on the campus, is COVERED in solar panels. There were signs that should have told me how occupied each level was, but they weren’t working. I could see cars up on the third level and the first and second seemed pretty full.
The campus is spacious and has beautiful views of the mountains. There are several surface lots and, one would think, plenty of room to build less permanent car-focused infrastructure.
After my visit, I took a 2 minute drive down the road to the Colorado Mills shopping mall. The mall is surrounded by acres and acres of surface parking. You can see the NREL garage from the mall’s parking lot, leaving me to wonder if that $31.5M was a necessary expenditure.