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LEED Certifications for Parking Garages No Longer Allowed

Parking garages are specifically excluded from eligibility for LEED certification, as of a LEED Interpretation issued on May 9, 2011.
June 16, 2011

News on this has been trickling out for a little while now, but I wanted to put up an official information announcement here on LEEDuser: parking garages are specifically excluded from eligibility for LEED certification, as of a LEED Interpretation issued on May 9, 2011. That means that any parking garages registered before that date are fine to proceed, but anyone trying to register after that date are out of luck.

Parking garages are defined as "buildings that dedicate more than 75% of floor area (including areas not covered, enclosed, or conditioned) to the parking and circulation of motor vehicles."

More useful parking garage info from the LEED MPR Supplemental Guidance:

Parking garages may not be included in the gross floor area of the LEED project building.

Parking garages may be included within the LEED project boundary—if parking is within, connected to, or on the site of the LEED project building.

Does this news affect your project? What do you think of it?

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February 25, 2015 - 10:29 am

In the latest Update to LEED Interpretation (LI) 10079 & 10080, the 75% maximum limit on area devoted to vehicle storage & circulation has been removed.

As of October 1, 2012:
So as not to penalize projects for consolidating parking in garages, and to make this LEED Interpretation more consistently applicable across a broad spectrum of project types, please note that the specific limit on the amount of parking a project may include is hereby removed. Instead, the USGBC wishes to clarify that parking areas themselves are not now, nor have they ever been eligible for LEED-certification. It is the "gross floor area" of a project (which, by definition excludes parking areas) which is the basis for determining LEED certification fees and the focus of the certification analysis. Like other features of the site or location, parking, whether structured or at-grade, has an impact on certain credits, but it does not actually receive LEED certification."

January 3, 2014 - 5:22 am

This isue can be very confusing when it comes to detail.
Gross floor area (based on ASHRAE definition) sais that the calculation "excludes floor area dedicated to the parking and circulation of motor vehicles". Typically, on underground parking floors, there are rooms with other usage type.
In our project (Retail and Office-Mixed Use) there is a 3-storey underground parking lot with circulation, but there are also technical rooms (AHU, utility connections, chillers), vertical communication (stairways), changing rooms and showers for bicycle users, stuff rooms, storage rooms etc. Usable floor area of these rooms should be substracted from gross floor area calculation and include only parking places with circulation (exterior faces of exterior walls)?
It also sais that the calculation "excludes air shafts, pipe trenches, and chimneys". Does this also apply to internal shafts and chimneys (clear dimensiohttp://www.leeduser.com/sites/all/themes/leeduser/images/form-submit.gifns) and each should be substracted from the gross floor area calculation?

September 28, 2011 - 10:55 am

We have a project that is being designed, and there is a parking garage being build on the site as well. The garage will be supporting the LEED building 100% (meaning no other buildings will be using the garage). Do we need to include the materials and the energy use of the garage with our LEED project, or is the garage not included whatsoever? The project is LEED 2009 BD+C.

September 16, 2015 - 11:26 pm

Lauren – As noted in the February 15, 2015, post above, you can find the parking garage exclusion in LEED Interpretations #100079 & 100080 (http://www.usgbc.org/leed-interpretations?keys=10079 ). Another way to look at it is that MRP4 a sets minimum gross floor area (GFA) for LEED projects, but the definition of GFA specifically excludes “floor area dedicated to the parking and circulation of motor vehicles.” Therefore, by itself, a parking garage would have zero GFA and would be ineligible for certification. However, a project like your student union (if it has sufficient GFA and meets the other MPRs) could include the garage within its LEED Boundary. If your project team chose to include the garage, its materials would count toward MR credits, its energy use would figure into energy models, and any other features within the boundary would figure into several other prerequisites and credits. This could work to your advantage or disadvantage. Be aware that the “reasonable site boundary” requirements of MPR3 could force your hand, requiring you either to include the garage or requiring you to exclude it. For more on how to document non-certifiable buildings (such as parking garages) as part of a LEED project, see this discussion on the NC-2009 EAp2 forum: https://leeduser.buildinggreen.com/forum/how-document-non-leed-certifiab...

September 16, 2015 - 4:06 pm

I have been reviewing LEEDuser and the Supplemental Guidance to the MPR document. There doesn't seem to be a clear definition of when you should or should not include a parking garage. I am working on a Student Union project being certified under BD+C 2009 that will have a parking garage built at the same time adjacent to the student union property line. There is a convenience bridge connecting the two separate buildings. The parking deck is replacing existing ground lots and it not required for the Union. The union and other parts of campus will have access to the parking deck. The teams first assumption was to not include the deck since it is a non-certifiable building and not required for the Union to function. I am searching for confirmation that this assumption is correct.

October 2, 2011 - 6:19 pm

I am working on an office building project that includes a significant parking garage, both under the building and to the side of the building. The reviewer asked us to be sure to include the parking garage in the lighting calculations as well as other energy calculations. This corroborates Tristan's recent comment.

September 28, 2011 - 1:30 pm

My reading of the MPRs is that the exclusion of parking garages is only for LEED certification on their own, and for gross floor area as part of the occupied space. They are integral to supporting the project building and should be included in all relevant credits, as would other site features.

September 28, 2011 - 12:32 pm

The MPR Supplemental Guidance states garages cannot earn LEED certification, they can't be included in the gross floor area of the LEED project building, and they may be included within the LEED Project Boundary. It doesn't state if their materials and energy should be included with the LEED project building. It appears this may be a CIR item.

September 28, 2011 - 12:08 pm

Mark, the answer would typically be "yes." Check the LEED Minimum Program Requirements Supplemental Guidance Document for a deeper understanding of this.

July 7, 2011 - 10:51 am

The change applied to parking garage certification is unfortunate and short sighted. the 75% rule appears also to apply to warehouse, transportation centers, and other spaces that contribute to the triple bottom line as well as global climate change. Parking garages preserve space for alternative uses with its high density getting cars off the street, open space parking, storm water management and countless other benefits. Parking garages meeting MPR (namely 1 FTE) could be relegated to CI certification but BD+C should apply so long as minimum program requirements are met.

request clarification for reversal or recommendation to use CI for new parking structure certfication.

July 10, 2011 - 6:05 am

Joseph, our website is independent from USGBC and GBCI, so they will have to give you a definitive answer.

However, based on the LEED Interpretation that provided this ruling, I don't see how LEED-CI is any different from BD&C. The ruling is based on the percentage of the project devoted to parking.

To those who are wondering why USGBC made this ruling, I can only speculate. But here is my guess (and I will make no comment on whether I agree or not):

LEED was not developed for unoccupied structures, including parking garages. USGBC is not saying that parking garages are never "green," nor that one parking garage cannot be "greener" than the other. They are simply saying that the current LEED rating systems aren't suited for this building type, and they don't want to see them used this way for the time being.

There are major organizations devoted to parking garages. If USGBC doesn't want to work in this area, I would look to those groups to develop LEED-like standards.

June 16, 2011 - 2:57 pm


Has this shown up yet in the Policy Manual or only in the LEED Interpretation dated May 9, 2011 as you've cited?

This is unforutnate since motor vehicles aren't going away anytime soon, as much as we'd like to think otherwise.

The thoughtful and creative sustainable strategies extended to the design of parking structures can significantly REDUCE the impact of vehicles on the environment and WHY shouldn't they receive the same certification opportunities? Why should the structure itself be penalized for what is housed within it?

Let me give you an example: we received certification for the BCBSM parking structure project in Detroit in 2007. On the same site that previously accomodated only 125 surface parking spaces, we constructed a parking structure that provides for over 1800 spaces ON THE SAME SITE! Talk about density and the ability to maintain open land for other Civic/landscaping opportunities! We also installed the 2nd-largest green roof in the State of Michigan on top of this deck in order to not only provide an area for a walking track for BCBSM's employees, but also to assist in our overall storm water catchment system which is considerable!

Why shouldn't these same strategies that apply for other (non-parking) structures NOT earn certification for these structures!

We are so disappointed! Is this written in stone?

I see a wave of backlash coming!

If what you say is true, there is no motiviation in the industry to make these structures anything other than dumb-boxes.

December 20, 2013 - 1:34 pm

No, I'm not aware of any change to this. You can double-check the LEED Interpretations database at USGBC.org, however.

December 19, 2013 - 5:02 pm

Tristan, do you know if this interpretation has been altered at all? Any other updates that would change the fundamental outcome that stand-alone parking structures are NOT eligible for LEED certification?

July 10, 2011 - 6:06 am

Kathy, I don't know what you mean by the "policy manual"—I don't think there is one. You should consider this LEED Interpretation as definitive.

June 17, 2011 - 9:59 am

Does anyone know whether parking garages submitted for certification in BDC v3, BEFORE the date of this new LEED interpretation, can include the parking area in the gross floor area? There is a clarification in the MPR guidance update (June 1, 2011) which states that parking garages may not be included in the gross floor area. However, the original MPR guidance (Nov 1009) is not as clear.