Friday, 4 April 2014

Multi-storey car parks are not often thought of in terms of energy efficiency, if they are considered at all. Usually taking the form of large concrete boxes, their unlovely architecture is a necessity in our busy cities – mostly, we are glad to be able to squeeze into a space in one and then forget about them until we return to try and remember where we left the car.

We were interested to see a scheme run by the government to promote energy efficiency in car parks. It initially involves providing a £10 million guarantee to NCP to help it install energy saving lighting at nearly 150 of its facilities across the country. Under the UK guarantee scheme, the government agrees to act as a guarantor for a project, giving private lenders confidence that they will get their money back if the project cannot pay.

Saving on lighting costs in car parks is essential – they are always well lit in the dark, whether cars and people are moving around them or not.

But as well as being able to see, what about being able to breathe? Ventilation is vital in car parks to extract the deadly carbon monoxide. This is obviously a safety measure but can it be made energy efficient as well? Yes it can; a fact that is shown by a project in Sheffield for major car park operator Q Parks.

To ventilate the car park of carbon monoxide and ensure that smoke can be vented in the event of fire, four fans were installed on the main car park ground floor. Two fans are used for air movement within the car park and two for extraction, driven by two 1.5 kW and two 5.5 kW ABB standard drives for HVAC respectively.

One part of the system is designed to monitor the carbon monoxide levels in the car park and initiate ventilation of three, six, or 10 air changes an hour when the level rises above recommended levels. Depending on the number of air changes needed, the drives run at 25, 30, 50, 60 or 100 percent speed, using only as much energy as needed.

Although lights are important for car parks, ventilation is vital - getting it to work more efficiently will help car park operators make city centre parking more sustainable and aid them in their efforts to go carbon neutral.

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