August 6, 2012

Hartford leads nation’s sustainable parking effort

Photo/Steve Laschever
Photo/Steve Laschever
Paul Wessel, executive director of the Green Parking Council, aims to increase energy efficiency in parking facilities nationwide.

Local companies transformed the Hartford-based Green Parking Council into the national authority on sustainable parking.

The nonprofit agency brings together leaders in the parking, green building and clean technology industries to develop strategies increasing energy efficiency in parking facilities across the country.

"Our aim is to promote the concept of the reality of sustainability in the parking industry, that parking can be part of the solution rather than part of the problem," said Paul Wessel, the Green Parking Council's executive director.

The council is the only national body offering sustainability certification to parking facilities. There are 20,000 lots and garages enrolled with the council nationwide — covering more than 4.6 million parking spaces.

The green parking initiative seeks to conserve energy and reduce environmental impact through the use of high efficiency lighting, sustainable roofing systems and increased accessibility of electric vehicle charging stations.

The council, founded in 2009, was the brainchild of Hartford parking leaders, such as John Schmid, chief executive officer of Hartford's Propark America, Inc. A conversation between friends grew into a national effort, and the council now collaborates with the two largest parking associations in America, the National Parking Association and the International Parking Institute.

"The GPC is a collective group of innovative people; I'm proud to be a part of that forward-thinking and rapidly expanding national mindshare," said Dennis Safford, chair of the council's marketing committee and corporate director of marketing at Propark.

Propark and Laz Parking Ltd. — both headquartered in Hartford — were founding partners in the council. Schmid and Laz CEO Alan Lazowski serve on its board of directors.

"We're lucky in Connecticut to have Propark and Laz headquartered here. Their presence provides the foundation for Green Parking Council to emerge. We're now seeing a lot of excitement and national interest," said Wessel.

Since the organization's inception, other Connecticut companies such as Hartford energy provider Northeast Utilities, Enfield manufacturer Control Module Industries, and Rocky Hill engineering firm AECOM also joined.

"The GPC provides an opportunity for us to learn about each other. Businesses, lawmakers, energy providers; all the components are involved," said Watson Collins, manager of business development at Northeast Utilities.

Northeast Utilities aids the sustainable parking effort through the creation of EV charging stations. Collins serves on the council's board of directors.

The council consists of five committees run by professionals in the parking industry: certification, which is developing the Green Garage Certification Program to standardize sustainability levels in parking facilities; credentialing, which works to educate industry professionals; sustainable technologies, which is creating a green technology database; marketing, which generates awareness for the council, its programs and its goals; and partnership, which establishes and maintains relationships with affiliated organizations.

The latest project is the high-efficiency parking lighting campaign. The council is collaborating with the Building Owners and Managers Association, the International Facility Management Association and the Department of Energy to promote energy efficient lighting in parking lots and garages. Building owners including Colliers, Cushman & Wakefield and JLL will kick off the campaign this fall.

The campaign is another step in GPC's goal to make the parking industry more ecologically aware and responsible.

"It's remarkable that the GPC is bringing industries together on a topic to advance sustainability across the country. Who would expect Hartford to be leaders in that? It's great," said Collins.

Safford also said the council's success is due in no small part to Connecticut's capital city.

"Hartford is full of smart, innovative and creative people dedicated to making positive change for the future, and that's certainly not just limited to the parking sector," Safford said.

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