The ground floor – for a garage?

The ground floor – for a garage?
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A specialist comments on the decision of the Moscow authorities to construct parking lots on the ground floors of building

It is not a secret that the parking deficit in Moscow is a problem which gets worse with every passing year. Can it be solved once and for all?  


The Moscow Department of Urban Development Policy (DUDP) has suggested an unusual solution: to allocate the ground floors of residential buildings for garage space (, as has long been done in the USA and in China. The domestic Sanitary Rules and Regulations (SanPiN) prevents Russia from doing so, forbidding parking on any floor of any residential complex.

We discussed how appropriate and reasonable the decision of the Department is and if it one might agree with Rospotrebnadzor (Federal Service for Oversight of Consumer Protection and Welfare) with Konstantin TROFIMENKO, Director of the Center for Megacity Transportation Problems Research of the Transport Economy and Transportation Policy Institute of the National Research University at the Higher School of Economics.  


A garage on the ground floor is twice as cheap

— Mr. Trofimenko, the DUDP is known to have justified their decision by the fact that it is much cheaper to allocate garages to the ground floors of residential buildings than to build, say, underground parking.  How do transportation infrastructure specialists see this decision? How reasonable is it?  

— This should be considered from different points of view. Of course, the Department's reasons for the serious cheapening of garage construction should be taken into account.   

The arrangement of underground parking is a really complicated engineering task. The soil in Moscow is complicated, and a great many factors should be taken into account while constructing a high-rise house and putting what is practically a hollow capsule for keeping cars in its foundation. First of all, the security factor – there exists a risk of waterlogging etc.

Another thing about a garage on the ground floor: if we have a concrete block and a strong frame, it does not matter what the space inside is filled with: a shop, a drugstore, or a garage… The thing is, how well will this initiative help solve the acute problem of the parking deficit?

Now there are 400 cars for every 1000 citizens in Moscow.

— A characteristic feature of today is that underground car parks in many residential complexes are empty. It is not surprising, as a parking space costs a lot – more than 1m rubles – and not many people can afford such an expense now.

— As far as construction costs and financial efficiency are concerned, I agree that a garage on the ground floor is a good alternative to underground parking. But again, the problem should be considered from different standpoints.  

Thus, urban specialists’ objections should be taken into account. And, by the way, they are very careful in their assessment of the new concept of parking. They insist that ground floors should primarily host social infrastructure objects: shops, drugstores, fitness clubs, hairdressers, nursery schools, etc.  

This is understandable: if the ground floors are taken up by garages, new residential areas will look deserted and devoid of convenient social networks. Residents will feel uncomfortable and even fearful.

However, the problem is partly soluble. Urban specialists are to plan beforehand how to distribute parking over residential areas so that there are place for shops and drugstores.


Housing construction and design should be reformed for the new model

—One should keep in mind that the proposed model suits only 5-6 storey buildings, not higher ones. In a 25-storey building such garages will be overcrowded with cars. Nevertheless, how hard is it to implement the idea?

— I don’t think it will be simple, and not because of developers’ inactivity but because of foot-dragging regarding the domestic housing construction complex.  Any reconstruction of a housing factory and the production elements for panel housebuilding takes time and effort. Besides, it is necessary to reconstruct design as well (standard new elements will be needed), as there must be a technical floor between parking and residential floors to protect people from exhausts, vibrations and other harmful elements.  


— Current sanitary norms and regulations do not allow for the arranging of garages on the ground floors of buildings…

— No. According to SanPiN regulations, parking for up to 10 cars may be situated 10 meters away from residential houses’ facades or walls without windows, and 25 meters away from educational and medical institutions. If a parking area houses up to 50 cars the distance increases to 15 and 50 meters respectively.


— As far as I know, the Moscow Department of Urban development has already suggested that Rospotrebnadzor amend SanPiN. Do you think Rospotrebnadzor will agree to introduce the amendments?

— Why not? I do not see any reasons for them to be against it. If everything is done well, there won’t be any negative consequences.


By the way, it is not only urban specialists who are very careful about their assessments, but also some authoritative architects and designers, for example, the Chief Architect of Moscow, Sergei Kuznetsov. According to him, residential houses have a bearing support not suitable for parking areas and it is more sensible to locate parking under public spaces: squares, streets, parks, etc.

— But these are again underground car parks, the construction of which is very expensive. It is right for cultural and historic centers of cities, but not for the large-scale residential construction of economy-class buildings that we are talking about. Besides, underground parking will be filled only if there are some restrictions outside, near places of interest - for example, paid parking. Otherwise the majority of drivers won’t use it – either because is not convenient for them, or because of their ego. 


Will crutches help the lame?

— Mr. Trofimenko, if we consider the problem from the long-term standpoints of the cardinal solution to the problem in a megacity…?  

— …From this point of view, alas, I must admit that this initiative is a rather temporary solution – a kind of “crutches for the lame”. That is, a temporary improvement will occur, but after 2020 there will be 500 cars per 1000 people, and then the old solution will not be sufficient, and cars will again appear in the yards. The problem will occur again.


— And what is to be done? How should the problem be solved? Yards are overcrowded with cars, and they are becoming more and more…

— The decision must be complex. First of all, sanitary-hygienic norms should be amended to allow for the usage of different parking models.

Secondly, though everybody criticizes “people’s garages”, to my mind it was the right decision. In building a high-rise building, one should plan parking space for many cars.

Thirdly, a global solution to the problem is in the sphere of expert town planning taking into account the correlation of urban development and transport services. The thing is that vast areas of multistoried residential houses were supposed to be served by public transport, both in the former USSR and in western countries. There is simply no place for a large number of cars on limited territory. 

That is why in many developed countries urban development regulations have been adopted obliging mass construction to be coordinated with plans for public transport network development.

The Metro and other types of public transport have been developing rapidly lately, but taking into account Moscow and its new territorial distances, it will take a long time to provide the faraway districts of the megacity with convenient public transport.

A garage on the ground floor is an emergency measure, a kind of “ambulance”, which may, of course, result in temporary positive changes.

Elena Matseiko



Sergei KATAEV, a driver:

— Building garages on ground floors is a reasonable thing. I vote for it. There is no need to clean the snow off the car or to warm up the engine for a long time. And it is much more comfortable to leave such garages than to drive up out of underground parking.


Rinat Faizullin, a resident of a new-built Moscow district:

— There is a rationale behind this decision, but what about people who live just over the garage? Will they like it? So, everything must be thought over carefully.