Structural Engineers and Experts Address Weight and Fire Safety Concerns
As electric vehicles (EVs) and larger automobiles become increasingly common on the roads, the challenges posed by these changes extend to parking garages, sparking concerns about weight and fire safety. This article explores the implications of these developments and the efforts to address them, including updated design guidelines and innovative solutions.
Design Guidance for Modern Car Parks
The Institution of Structural Engineers in London recently released updated design guidance for car parks. This comprehensive document covers various types of car park structures, from multi-level facilities to underground and those within residential and office buildings. The guidance is aimed at all stakeholders involved in car park design.
The Weight Factor
One significant issue arising from the proliferation of larger vehicles, particularly EVs, is the increasing weight of automobiles. According to the Institution, the average vehicle’s weight has risen from 1.5 metric tons in 1974 to nearly 2 metric tons in 2023. This weight gain is attributed to the presence of electric and hybrid batteries and the overall expansion in car sizes.
Potential Structural Challenges
While the majority of vehicles remain within the design capacity of car parks, some top-end executive cars and long-range SUVs are exceeding three metric tons. This trend towards bigger vehicles presents potential challenges in certain circumstances, especially when parking garages are not adequately prepared for these heavyweights.
Addressing Weight Concerns
To ensure public confidence in parking garages and structural engineers, assessments of these facilities are crucial. Structural engineers are encouraged to evaluate the strength of existing car parks and reinforce them if necessary. In cases where strengthening is prohibitively expensive, screening vehicles before entry or allocating the ground floor to heavyweights are alternative options.
Fire Safety and EVs
Another area of concern is fire safety, particularly in underground facilities where extinguishing EV fires can be exceptionally challenging due to the immense energy stored in EV batteries. Sprinkler systems are emerging as a potential solution, as they can help control the spread of fires and provide valuable time for firefighting efforts.
The discussions about adapting parking lots and garages to accommodate EVs and larger vehicles extend beyond the UK. The European Commission initiated a task force in 2023, focusing on the fire-safe deployment of charging points in covered parking garages. This collaborative effort aims to create guidelines that maintain fire safety while welcoming EVs into these facilities.
Balancing Challenges and Progress
As EV adoption continues to rise globally, it is essential to address the evolving challenges related to parking garages. Structural engineers and experts emphasize that their goal is not to hinder EVs but to facilitate their integration into parking infrastructure. By finding innovative solutions and fostering collaboration among stakeholders, the industry can navigate these changes successfully and ensure the safety and functionality of parking facilities for all vehicles.