EV Charging Point in a Car Park

How To Build a Car Park

A Guide to Multi-Storey Car Park Construction

Around 2012, it was estimated that around 17,000 and 20,000 non-residential car parks had been built in Great Britain.  This included car parks run by local authorities, retailers, hospitals, businesses, commercial parking companies such as NCP, railway stations, hotels and hospitals. Overall, they provided between 3 and 4 million car parking spaces.

The RAC states that there were 31.9 million private cars registered in the UK by the end of September 2020 taking 25 billion trips each year, with each journey typically starting and ending at a parking space. In the last eight years, car park construction has dramatically increased in line with car ownership and use.

The multi-storey car park has become a common feature of today’s towns and cities as it provides more parking spaces then a surface car park whilst occupying the same foot print. It is estimated there are around 6,000 multi-storey car parks in the UK today but they haven’t always looked as they do now.

A brief history of Multi-Storey Car Parks

The first known ‘multi-storey car park’ to be constructed in the UK, and possibly the world, was built in May 1901 by The City & Suburban Electric Carriage Company at 6 Denman Street in Central London.  It was 19,000ft2 and accommodated 100 vehicles over seven storeys with an electric lift to move vehicles between floors.

City & Suburban specialised in the sale, storage, valeting and ‘on-demand delivery’ of electric vehicles that could reach top speeds of 20mph and travel up to 40 miles on one charge. The company would store and maintain the vehicles and recharge their batteries for customers.

It’s interesting that 120 years later, electric vehicle charging has returned as a major feature of UK car park construction, alongside other smart technology.

In fact, in recent decades car parks have become much more sophisticated, both in their design and the way in which they are built.

How has multi storey car park design and construction changed over the years?

Between the first and second world wars, multi-storey car park construction was really only undertaken in London and at seaside towns such as Blackpool. They were also built for visitors to attractions such as cinemas and theatres, and at transport hubs.

Car Parks were mostly enclosed brick buildings with windows and central heating and often had lounges and cafes for chauffeurs and owners.  Some featured straight ramps or internal/external curved ramps. As car ownership was still a privilege of the more well-to-do, the aesthetic features of car parks were considered seriously; an example being the Daimler Garage on Herbrand Street in London which is now Grade II listed and is a stunning contemporary office building. There are many stunning car park buildings still standing.

By the 1960’s, it was considered the norm for every family to own a car and the country had adopted the American style of open deck multi-storey car park construction, which was manufactured on site in concrete with mushroom shaped columns and exposed roof top parking. These monolithic blocks have often come under fire for their less than pleasing appearance and were perhaps the catalyst for local authority planning departments introducing car park design standards.

Around this time, precast concrete was also introduced as a method of multi storey car park construction and is still in use today. However, it is becoming more common for car parks to be built in steel frame and composite steel deck due to the speed of erection and the flexibility it offers when designing car park layouts.

Why use steel frame and composite car park decking in car park construction?

Steel is light weight yet high strength so has reduced foundation requirements making it an economical solution for raised deck and multi storey car park construction.

It is durable and needs minimum maintenance with lifespans of up to 50 years. Steel is also quick to erect, which reduces construction timescales, and therefore car park construction costs.

Steel allows car park layout design teams to maximise the number of parking bays available within a space rather than be restricted by the shape of the building structure, as can be the case with concrete. It is extremely versatile and allows all of the main attributes of good car park design to be achieved.

Steel is fire resistant, robust, vandal proof and capable of easily accommodating emerging car park related technologies.

Read more about the advantages of steel frame construction in our knowledge article.

What is composite steel decking?

Composite steel deck floors comprise of long sheets of profiled (sometime referred to as ‘corrugated’) galvanised steel decking which are laid on steel beams between vertical steel columns, and onto which a concrete floor slab is cast. The steel deck is sometimes referred to as ‘composite car park deck’.

The concrete is reinforced with either reinforced steel mesh sheets, which are laid on top of the steel decking, or metal fibres which are added directly to the concrete mix.

Reinforcing the concrete helps to control cracking, provides resistance against longitudinal shear and, in the case of fire, acts as tensile reinforcement.

The indentations in the profiled metal deck help the concrete and steel to bond and carry the load. Shear studs are incorporated onto the top flange of the supporting steel beam, creating the composite action.

The Benefits of Composite Car Park Deck with Engineered Ends

Traditionally, steel deck sheets are fixed to a structural steel frame using shot fired fixings with a galvanised end cap installed to close off the end of each deck profile. By folding and pressing the end of the metal deck profile to form a slope during manufacture – a process called Engineered Ends – these elements of the build programme can be eliminated creating time and cost efficiencies.

Specifying metal decking with Engineered Ends for multi storey car park construction allows a greater volume of concrete to come into contact with the steel beams around the shear studs therefore improving the overall composite action and performance of the steel frame and concrete floor slab. Engineered Ends are exclusive to Kingspan Steel Decking, of which Metpark is an approved supplier and installer.

Steel Deck Profiles and Long Span Steel Deck

The steel decking sheets can be specified in a range of profiles and span widths, according to the load bearing and fire rating requirements of the project.

The strength of the steel allows long spans of steel car park decking to be laid between beams without the need for props.  This reduces the number of columns required in the car park layout and, therefore, increases the number of clear spaces that can be delivered. As a result, commercial car park operators can see revenues increase, whilst businesses creating car parks to accommodate workforce parking can see overall construction costs reduce with more spaces achieved over a smaller footprint.

A popular steel floor deck is Kingspan Multideck MD80, which is specifically manufactured for use in multi storey car park construction and delivers unpropped spans of up to 5.4 metres. It can also be manufactured with additional corrosion protection using magnelis coated steel, known as Kingspan MD80XP, which prolongs the life of the structure and reduces the requirement for early maintenance. This is essential in highly corrosive environments such as coastal or waterside locations.   

The concrete car deck is generally powerfloated to create a smooth and compact surface which will then be shot blasted to apply any specialist waterproof surface toppings.

A brush finish can also be applied which creates a textured appearance and can help provide skid resistance.

MD80 XP with Engineered Ends, Supplied and Installed by Metpark On a Recent Car Park Project in Liverpool.

What kind of waterproof surfaces and line marking is required in car parks?

Most modern car park floors are given an additional waterproof topping to protect the concrete from water ingress.

Car park structures and surfaces are unique buildings that are subjected to high dynamic and dead vehicle loads whilst being exposed to wear, mechanical damage, weathering and chemical attack from road salts, carbon dioxide ingress, fuels such as diesel or petrol, battery acids, brake fluid and engine oil.

As a minimum, the top deck of the car park should be protected by either traditional bitumen (asphalt) or given a liquid applied seamless coating. All parking levels should be given some form of waterproof coating and consideration should have been made at design stage to incorporate adequate falls and drainage to prevent the pooling of liquids on the surfaces.

Robust waterproof surface treatments help prolong the life of a multi storey car park surface and structure as well as assist with its aesthetics and ensure a safe and easy to navigate environment for its users; some of the critical aspects of ‘good car park design’.

As well as the more obvious markings, such as line marking for bay divisions and directional signage, coloured toppings can be applied to the car park surface to assist with:

  • Disabled bay parking indication
  • Parent and child bay indication
  • Anti-skid surfacing to ramps and corners
  • Traction strips for pedestrian crossings, walkways and stop zones
  • Cross-hatching to indicate no parking zones

Coloured surface coatings can also be used to distinguish Electric Vehicle charging bays and to assist other car parking technology, such as to help slow vehicles down when approaching security barriers and automatic number plate recognition systems.

What technology is available in modern car parks?

Modern technology has revolutionised the way multi storey car parks look and the how they are used.  Gone are the days of the humble parking attendant taking payment from a little booth as vehicles arrived or departed from the car park premises.

Many car park owners and operators have embraced automated methods of payment, management and enforcement increasing efficiency and making them more cost effective to run.

EV Charging Points in Car Parks

According to the RAC, at the start of 2021 there were more that 150,000 zero-emission Battery Electric Vehicles on the UK’s roads (there were over 100,000 registered in 2020 alone) and around 185,000 Plug-in Hybrid and Range-Extended Electric Vehicles.

With electric vehicles increasingly becoming a preferred option over petrol and diesel variants (and forthcoming legislation banning the sale of new diesel and petrol cars), savvy car park operators are future proofing their investment with the installation of EV charging stations in dedicated EV only parking bays.

Depending on the design and location of the car park, solar electric vehicle charging through photovoltaics installed on the building roof offer a renewable energy solution to offset the operational costs of these charging points and other devices such as LED lighting.

electric charging point in a car park - copyright raised floor solutions Ltd

ANPR Technology

The most commonly used technology in modern multi storey car parks is ANPR (automatic number plate technology). A special camera system detects the number plate of a vehicle as it enters or exits a car park. The cameras are equipped to take pictures even at low levels of light and on difficult angles.

ANPR technology allows 24/7 monitoring of car parks to ensure the facility is not being abused and used either inappropriately or for longer durations than are being declared. It provides the car park owner or operator with proof that a vehicle entered and/or exited at a set time allowing them to protect their asset and gain maximum profits.

According to ANPR manufacturer Parking Eye, Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust, saw a 40% increase in revenues following the installation of the technology.

Touch-Free Ticketing

‘Touchless’ payment technologies are in high demand in car parks following the arrival of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Pay by phone parking has been a common feature on most modern car parks for a few years now with firms such as RingoGo and PaybyPhone providing cashless payment services via an app or a telephone call. 

However, ANPR technologies can be harnessed to provide even greater convenience to the driver by removing the risk of struggling with mobile reception or forgetting to purchase a ticket in the first place.

For example, Good 2 Go is an online payment service that, after initial registration, will automatically deduct payment for a parking duration at any ANPR based car parking facility.

Many multi-storey car parks are also offering the opportunity to pre-book parking which can be done online before commencing a journey and takes some of the stress for the driver by guaranteeing a parking space in their preferred car park at their destination.

woman buying a car parking ticket on her phone in a car park


CCTV has long been a feature of modern car parks providing a layer of security for both the facility and those who use it.

A passive security system can be used for a car park; that is one that keeps a record of the security threats but does not provide an immediate alert. These are the most typical type of CCTV cameras to be used in public spaces, such as shopping centres, offices, hospitals etc.

When designing the CCTV scheme, attention should be paid to the principles of ‘Secured by Design’, the Police guidelines for secure and safe buildings. Cameras should be located to avoid obstacles such as columns or pillars, another reason to opt for steel frame car park construction, and with a view to providing natural surveillance.

It is essential that any CCTV system complies with the CCTV Code of Practice. It should also be registered with the Information Commissioner and comply with the Data Protection Act 1998.

How to make car parks more cost effective?

Car parks traditionally were dark and dingy places that were unpleasant to visit. New technologies have addressed this issue, as have the increasing use of light-coloured surface coatings and coloured treatments to the underside of composite metal decking.

However, lighting is still an essential consideration, and a considerable cost, for car park owners and operators.

Renewable technologies could help relieve some of this cost burden and make them more cost effective to run.  Depending on the style of the car park structure, solar panels on the roof or top deck could be used to power both lighting and electrical vehicle charging points.

A lighting plan for car parks can be drawn up by professional lighting experts who will ensure designs eliminate shadows and comply to BS 5489-1:2013 and BS EN 12464-1:2011 standards.  Lighting systems should be fitted with invisible or anti-vandal cabling and if lighting columns are used, they should be situated to ensure they are not used as climbing aids.

Other considerations when building a car park include the inclusion of defence boundaries that will improve security and to ensure these are anti-climb, particularly in high suicide risk locations such as near hospitals.

The Park Mark Safer Parking Scheme publishes a list of guidelines for designers, owners and operators of new build car parks in the UK.  Car Parks that adopt their recommended features and practices are eligible for Park Mark accreditation.

How long does it take to build a multi storey car park?

So, with all these aspects considered, how long does it take to construct a multi-storey car park?

Well, a lot depends on the size of the car park and the method of construction adopted. Taking a fast track solution, such as steel frame and composite steel decking, a multi-storey car park of between 70-80 spaces could be delivered in approximately 16 weeks. An example of this is our raised deck car park in Fareham, where we were able to double the volume of spaces over the previous surface level car park.

How much does it cost to build a multi storey car park?

The most asked question in connection with multi storey car park construction is “how much will it cost?”

Again, there is no-one-size-fits-all answer to this question and cost modelling can be complex. It is dependent on numerous factors such as scale, location, foundation design, car park efficiency, choice of facades and so on.

As a rule of thumb, based upon an economic car park layout and a high efficiency ratio of a basic car park, Metpark UK advises clients to budget an initial £10,000 – £12,000 per parking space. These costs will rise with the introduction of external cladding and higher levels of technology.

If you would like a more definite answer to these questions, contact the car park design and build specialists at Metpark UK. 

Who Are Metpark UK Car Park Contractors?

Metpark UK is a specialist car park contractor providing design and build services for single storey (raised deck) and multi-storey car park structures. We offer creative car park solutions designed to maximise bay volumes and, therefore, car park revenues.

All of our bespoke multi storey car park solutions are based on steel frame and composite concrete floor construction methods. We can over a decade of experience working with these structures and are approved suppliers and installers of Kingspan Multideck Steel Car Park Decking through our sister company, Raised Floor Solutions.

We offer independent services, including feasibility studies, preliminary car park design layouts including 3D modelling and no obligation budget quotations as well as car park planning applications and full multi storey car park construction. For the most cost and time efficient solution however, we can provide a full design and build solution.

Contact our expert car park team now on 01695 566880 or email us.