Parking in a world of Electric Cars #1

Housing layout illustrating ‘Car Garden’ concept. Use of shared-surface lanes and areas for visitor parking create a varied street scene with more efficient layout than typical suburban housing.

Our attitude to cars is changing – indeed the technology of motor vehicles is about to go through the most rapid and fundamental shift since Gottlieb Daimler patented the four-stroke internal combustion engine. The time to revaluate our relationship with the car and its place in our homes is now overdue. This blog suggests two new ways we can accommodate cars in our homes.

Cars and Land

Car parking is so often a point of contention at planning because of the high percentage of land taken up by car spaces and the detrimental impact cars have on the character of new development. Even with efficient layout, terraced houses at a nominal net density of say 78 units/Ha, with a modest 1-to-1 car to dwelling ratio will use up 12% of the land area as car spaces.

For semi-detached properties with two car spaces a-piece, you will need to sacrifice 14.7% of your site area for car spaces. This assumes a tandem layout to minimise land take. However, this arrangement is of course not always acceptable as many local authorities demand parking spaces that can be used independently.

The areas quoted don’t include the roads needed to service the homes. In all, roads and parking to service the suburban car-dependent housing model will take up a minimum of 28% of the land area for semi-detached housing.

The consequences of this on the efficiency of land use means that higher densities are hard to achieve with houses, streetscapes become car-dominated, open space is limited, housing is more expensive and new development struggles to rival the character of historic building patterns.

With the increasing use of electric vehicles, there is now the added issue of charger cables trailing across footways and parking courts.

Idea: A Car Garden

On-plot residential car parking is often preferred by developers and residents, but they come at the cost of the visual impact of cars in front of homes and the loss of what might otherwise have been attractive gardens. Moreover, their hard standing area is almost useless for anything else during weekdays when the car has been driven to work or if residents chose not to own as many cars as they have been given spaces for.

The solution is to incorporate the parking spaces within the home’s main garden – either a back garden or a side garden. Cars can stand on grasscrete reinforced mesh to create a permeable robust parking area but which allows plants to grow through making the parking space a functional and visual extension of the garden when the car is absent.

The diagram shows how this might be achieved. Shared-surface lanes service the homes and high garden walls with gates give privacy to gardens and screen car spaces from public view. This typology achieves net densities of 50 houses per Ha or 70+ units/Ha if some plots are a flat over bungalow configuration.

Instead of the designer or planning authority deciding priorities, this arrangement allows residents to choose if they want to accommodate one car, two cars or simply have more garden. If current trends are to be believed, increasing numbers are choosing to forego cars and we can future-proof housing developments rather than have useless parking spaces left unused.

Of course, cars can be hidden from view in garages but a closer look at this hybrid typology reveals that garages are fast becoming something of an anachronism.

This is explored in a second Blog in this series – here


Cars are not likely to go away – no matter how hard some designers might wish. But cars are changing and the way we design our homes can change too. There will no doubt be many other ways we can rethink how we accommodate cars and I would welcome others sharing their ideas


Marcus is an award-winning, international architect and town planner, specialising in creating liveable neighbourhoods and with over 30 years’ experience in a range of building and planning projects. As a leading figure in the UK’s urban design movement, Marcus has been at the forefront of changing the way we plan and build towns and cities. His work with local communities has resulted in places that work for the people that live there, making them more popular, safer and well cared for.

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