Before You Repurpose Parking for COVID-19: Important Safety Information

By John Purinton

As healthcare workers Blog post 03-31-20man the front lines of the COVID-19 outbreak, one of the challenges they’re forced to confront is how—and where—to manage the dramatic increase in patient volume. This unprecedented demand for additional beds and space to treat patients has resulted in some hospitals seeking to repurpose unused parking garage floors as temporary treatment centers. However, if you are considering using structured parking to manage this overflow, there are important safety considerations to be aware of.

Parking structures are designed for much lower structural loads than hospitals, offices, and residential buildings.

While it may seem counter-intuitive, the average weight of a car relative to its footprint is much lighter than that of a human being. Therefore, the floor of a parking structure is only designed to support 40 pounds per square foot. While this is more than sufficient for vehicles, human use is a different matter. In addition to a much greater weight density per square foot, human uses also typically mean heavy equipment and furniture that contributes to higher live loads.

Therefore, if you:

  • Are managing parking at a healthcare facility and considering using your parking structure for patient overflow, contact the structural engineer of record to determine whether or not this is a safe and viable option.
  • Know anyone who is managing healthcare or other essential services that are considering using parking garage floors for human uses, please ensure that they are aware of this important information.

Thank you to all who are going above and beyond to help us through this global crisis. Your safety is our top priority.

John Purinton is principal with Watry Design, Inc.