Close encounters of the car park kind
Car parks are a vital component of many facilities, but ensuring safe, secure and effective access is essential, writes ARIAN BAHRAMSARI.
Car parks are indispensable parts of the management of residential apartments. A car park area can be indicative of a facility’s efficiency, lifestyle, cleanliness and management discipline. Facility managers and building staff can encounter issues arising from the car park on a regular basis, for neglecting even just one seemingly minor problem can cause serious issues.
CAR PARK ACCESS SYSTEMS
The most obvious problem related to car parks is their accessibility. Car park access needs to be reliable, fast, secure and convenient. Nowadays there are various access systems implemented in apartment car parks.
1) Remote control access (fob/swipe)
This is a common method to provide car park access for residents. To avoid the misuse of swipes, facility managers have the option
of limiting the number of car park-activated fobs. Residents living in apartments with no allocated car park would not be given access and those who have a car park bay may get a limited number of swipes activated for car park access.
2) Licence Plate Recognition (LPR) or Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR)
This technology utilises specific cameras to recognise vehicles’ number plates. The car park gate opens once a resident’s number plate is detected. Although this is a widely used system, there are some challenges associated with this technology. Generally, sensitivity and efficiency of these systems against environmental change and ambient light level are varied. Characters similar in appearance – such as ‘5’ and ‘S’ and ‘0’ and ‘O’ – are often incorrectly detected by the system. Therefore, a manual entry of multiple plate numbers for these variations is required under certain circumstances to avoid resident inconvenience.
Additionally, the cameras installed in this type of access system have a limited detection zone and coverage. Therefore, residents are required to pass through a specific zone and be positioned in the right spot in order for the cameras to identify their number plate. Facility managers may have the option to request extra cameras to be installed to widen the detection zone. For this method to work well, residents need to be provided with clear directions and instruction about their LPR or ANPR system.
3) Radio-frequency Identification (RFID)
This is another form of access that is based on electromagnetic field technology. Residents’ vehicles will be equipped with an RFID tag or transponder. An antenna installed at the gate generates an electromagnetic field, activates the tag, verifies its numeric code and opens the gate. Unlike remote control access tags, RFID tags do not require a battery to operate. New RFID technology systems are equipped with Bluetooth, Zigbee or GSM modules (battery/wired), and they also offer the use of a smartphone to grant the access.
4) Boom gate
Boom gates are one of the most widely used access systems in building car parks. Boom gates can be combined with or added to
any form of access system such as control spikes (tiger teeth), swipe systems, LPR and RFID. It is highly recommended to fit boom gates with additional safety features such as photoelectric beams or inductive loops for vehicle detection.
5) Biometric recognition system
These systems are set in highly secured and restricted car parks. They typically use a resident’s fingerprint to generate a unique identifier that is not duplicable.
COMMON PROBLEMS IN RESIDENTIAL CAR PARKS
Misusing access passes
There are situations when you may find residents passing their access card back to a second person to gain access into the building. Facility managers may consider putting an anti-passback feature in place, which establishes a set entry and exit sequence for residents. Whenever the configured sequence is not observed, an alarm will be sent to the facility manager and the second access may not be granted.
Occupation of another resident’s car space
This may be the most common issue relating to residential car parks. The very first step for facility managers is to make sure that car park spaces and levels are marked, labelled and easily visible. If labels have worn off or levels are not clearly marked, it is quite easy for residents to make mistakes. The next step would be to ensure residents are aware of their entitled parking space, number and boundary.
Some residents may assume their car park number is the same as their apartment number or may not be aware of similar sub car park levels (e.g. level 4 and level 4A). Finally, if all options are exhausted, facility managers can liaise with their owners’ corporation and committee to install collapsible barriers in car park bays. These automated barriers are controlled via a remote control and can communicate with the lot owner if their car bay is occupied.
Car park speed limit
To ensure the safety of all residents and minimise car accidents, facility managers are required to check speed limit signs in their car park. Normally, the posted speed limit is five to 10 kilometres per hour in a car park area. Down the car park ramps, deployed speed humps can reduce travelling speeds too.
Car park height allowance
Facility managers need to make sure that height restriction bars and signage are installed and visible at the car park gate. If a vehicle is broken down inside the car park and needs to be towed away, facility managers must ensure that lifting or towing the vehicle does not exceed the permitted height.
Securing essential services in the car park
Existing building infrastructure in car parks is to be protected by safety bollards or concrete wheel barriers. Facility managers can minimise the risk of any collision damage in car parks by installing safety barriers.
Visitor car park management
Visitors to a car park are one of the areas that can create many annoyances for building staff. There have been situations where residents park long-term, or even rent out their own car spot and park their car in the visitor car spot. It is vital to have a clear rule introduced and define the meaning of ‘visitor’ for everyone. Facility managers may require residents to obtain approval for occupying the visitor space longer than the specified time-frame. Experience says that covering the visitor car park area can be helpful in managing this section of the building. Having a means of tracking repeat offenders, such as using a spreadsheet, can also assist facility managers to identify a potential problem.
How to reduce incidents
Facility managers can minimise car park-related problems via consistent communication with residents and by conducting OH&S audits. For instance, it is worth posting some notes or information about the risks associated with walking along car park ramps (if this is applicable) or stopping at the gate to avoid tailgating into the car park.
Nowadays, modern car park access systems provide easy and convenient access. Facility managers may consider having a combination of different access systems, which means if one access system is down or faulty, the other one can still provide access for building occupiers.
Car park management is a critical component of any building management sector, for it indicates the efficiency and competence of the building. By making informed decisions regarding car park access, facility managers can ensure that they are creating a safe and secure space for building dwellers. ●
Arian Bahramsari is a facility manager at Facility Management Victoria Pty Ltd, based in Docklands, Melbourne.
This article also appears in the October/November issue of Facility Management magazine.
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