7 Essential Elements for Effective Parking Lot Design

Katie Thompson
Last Updated: December 13, 2023

When it comes to designing a parking lot, there are many factors to consider in order to create a functional and efficient space. From maximizing space to ensuring safety, here are seven essential elements for effective parking lot design.

Purpose of the Parking Lot

Business parking space needs are often dynamic and ever-changing depending on your business structure. Analyzing your business requirements and how people interact with your business will help maximize the design of your parking lot. Consider how the needs of a convenience store would be different from a shopping mall or a storage warehouse. Does the business have people who are working remotely 3 days a week? What type of vehicles will be using the parking lot? Businesses with similar parking needs will often share parking space (i.e. mini-malls) with other neighboring businesses to manage maintenance costs and ensure that there is sufficient parking space when required.  We are seeing businesses with an increasing need for flexible parking spaces and the need for parking software (staff pre-book their parking space through an app).     

Space Optimization

One of the most important aspects of parking lot design is space optimization. This involves carefully planning the layout of the lot to maximize the number of parking spaces while still allowing for easy navigation and traffic flow. Utilizing angled parking spaces and incorporating one-way traffic patterns can help to optimize space and increase the overall capacity of the lot.

Safety and Accessibility

Ensuring the safety and accessibility of a parking lot is crucial for both drivers and pedestrians. This includes proper lighting, clearly marked crosswalks, and designated accessible parking spaces for individuals with disabilities. It is also important to consider the placement of speed bumps and stop signs to help control traffic and prevent accidents. Wide approaches and thick asphalt are design elements for large vehicles such as semis carrying goods for resale.

Parking Lot located downtown, Edmonton

Efficient Traffic Flow

In addition to optimizing space, it is important to design a parking lot with efficient traffic flow in mind. This means creating designated entrances and exits, as well as clearly marked lanes and directional arrows. It is also helpful to have a designated drop-off and pick-up area for ride-sharing services or for individuals with disabilities.

Landscaping and Aesthetics

While functionality is key, the aesthetics of a parking lot should not be overlooked. Incorporating low maintenance landscaping elements such as native trees, shrubs, and flowers can not only enhance the overall appearance of the lot but also provide shade and reduce heat absorption. Additionally, using materials such as decorative pavers or stamped concrete can add visual interest and improve the overall look of the lot.


In today’s world, sustainability is an important consideration in any civil design project. When it comes to parking lot design, there are several ways to incorporate sustainable elements. This may include using permeable pavement to reduce stormwater runoff, installing electric vehicle charging stations, or incorporating solar panels to provide energy for lighting. Bioswales (sloped areas with native vegetation) are also becoming increasingly popular in parking lots to absorb excess stormwater.

Parking Lot located in Edmonton, Alberta

Stormwater Management and Drainage

When it comes to parking lot design, drainage is an essential element to consider. Proper drainage ensures that rainwater and other liquids can flow away from the surface of the parking lot, preventing pooling and potential damage. There are several techniques that can be incorporated into the design to optimize drainage, such as installing permeable pavement or using sloping surfaces to direct water towards drainage systems. By implementing effective drainage design, you can improve the functionality and longevity of the parking lot while reducing the risk of flooding or water damage.

The Path Forward

By incorporating these essential elements into your parking lot design, you can create a functional, safe, and visually appealing space that meets the needs of both drivers and pedestrians. Whether you are designing a new parking lot or revamping an existing one, considering these factors will help ensure a successful and efficient design.

Bolson Engineering and Environmental Services is your partner in planning, with decades of experience in land development and a large construction network across Alberta. Contact us if you’re planning on a future development in Alberta, and we’ll be happy to consult with you as your trusted engineering partner.

About the author

With more than 12 years in human resources, Katie brings important process management skills to the table. Her direct experience with senior management in the construction industry helps her understand your engineering project goals. Her creative forward-thinking propels Bolson toward exciting new business opportunities.

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