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Posted on Mon, Sep 19, 2011 : 5:58 a.m.

Ann Arbor DDA earns nod for sustainable design in new underground parking structure

By Ryan J. Stanton

Ann Arbor's South Fifth Avenue underground parking structure has been recognized as a “Demonstrator Site" by the Green Parking Council.

Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority officials announced the news, pointing out the designation means the parking structure — still in the process of being built — now will be among the first facilities eligible for Green Garage certification in 2012.

"The DDA has worked throughout this project to minimize its environmental impacts," Amber Miller, the DDA's planning and research specialist, wrote in an email to "Our efforts now allow this structure to become part of this unique program designed to encourage the standardization of sustainable initiatives within the parking industry."


From the top floor of the Ann Arbor District Library, the view of the new downtown underground parking structure taking shape on Thursday.

Ryan J. Stanton |

The Green Parking Council is a nonprofit group dedicated to expanding green parking practices through its Green Garage rating system. It developed the Demonstrator Site program as an evaluative tool to initiate the process toward Green Garage certification.

"The GPC has created the Demonstrator Site program to bring recognition to those facilities that have committed to making an effort towards sustainability and who have made progress towards this end," the group's website states.

Miller cited several examples of the project's commitment to sustainable practices. For instance, the excavated sand from the site is being reused as part of the structural concrete for the project, and all demolished concrete, asphalt and wood from the site has been recycled.

Also, all of the stormwater that falls on the site will be detained, in excess of city requirements, and energy-saving lights will be used that can cast lower light levels in off-peak periods.

When the structure opens, it's expected to include 22 electric car charging stations and set aside prime parking spaces for alternative fueled vehicles.

DDA officials said this represents only the latest in a number of DDA initiatives to promote sustainability as a part of downtown development.

The DDA also has committed nearly $500,000 toward a program providing energy saving audits, recommendations and installation rebates to downtown businesses. DDA officials said the program has encouraged downtown building owners to make nearly $700,000 worth of improvements that are anticipated to save $87,000 a year in energy costs.

The DDA also has played a role in alternative transportation programs by covering 95 percent of the cost for the popular go!pass — a free bus pass for 7,100 employees — as well as bike hoops and lockers, commuter rail research, Zipcar sponsorship, and the getDowntown program. Additionally, the DDA provided the funds for the installation of a solar-electric demonstration project at the Farmers Market, downtown LED street lights, energy efficient upgrades at the Delonis Center and downtown sidewalk recycling containers.

Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for Reach him at or 734-623-2529. You also can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to's e-mail newsletters.



Mon, Sep 19, 2011 : 4:16 p.m.

I feel so proud knowing that we have the bestest, greenest hole in the ground that money can buy.

Ron Granger

Mon, Sep 19, 2011 : 2:25 p.m.

What a huge waste of "green" dollars... By an out of control, unaccountable DDA. This is right up there with giving Umich our parkland for free, and building them a parking structure.


Mon, Sep 19, 2011 : 1:57 p.m.

I call upon the rational minded citizens of Ann Arbor to BOYCOTT THE UNDERGROUND PARKING STRUCTURE! This expensive abomination is a completely unnecessary waste of our taxpayer dollars and a massive amount of energy input. We did not ask for this, the DDA did not take our vote on it, and it is just SHAMEFUL that a "progressive" city such as ours could have this thing rammed down our throat. Please join me in pledging to NEVER park in this structure once it is FINALLY complete and we get our street back.


Mon, Sep 19, 2011 : 1:52 p.m.

Sorry but there is nothing "green" about building a completely unnecessary parking structure that just encourages more people to drive automobiles. Awards and certifications like this do us no good. It is a "slightly better" effort still pointing in completely the wrong direction. UGH! Especially because this monstrosity is built underground - thus using an order of magnitude greater energy input to construct. How many gallons of diesel fuel were spent building this thing?!? I am going to guess it is going to top 100,000 gallons or more, using some reasonable engineering and internal combustion engine background estimates. Every day you see those cranes spinning around, think about their massive diesel engines sucking down 50 gallons per hour or more. Add in the loaders, bulldozers, dump trucks, concrete trucks & mixers, off-site energy use... and it just gets ridiculous. The electric charging stations, reduced lighting, and bicycle lockers will NEVER offset the energy, imported oil and taxpayer money just spent to build this thing. SHAME ON THE DDA.


Mon, Sep 19, 2011 : 1:20 p.m.

I for one will never park in that structure -- do not feel safe with it. And, personally, I feel it is totally a waste of taxpayers dollars.


Mon, Sep 19, 2011 : 1:53 p.m.

AGREED! Boycott the underground abomination lot!


Mon, Sep 19, 2011 : 1:03 p.m.

Can someone report if these savings are real or are they like the 20% anticipated energy saving on other projects in and around Ann Arbor that never seem to happen? "DDA officials said the program has encouraged downtown building owners to make nearly $700,000 worth of improvements that are anticipated to save $87,000 a year in energy costs." At least they are a little more conservative in their estimate of savings here. (Only 12.4% instead of 20%)


Mon, Sep 19, 2011 : 4:03 p.m.

No kidding. This kinda reminds me of buying something at the grocery store just because you have a coupon for it. You might get something for $0.50 less than the regular price, but you saved nothing because you wouldn't have bought the item at all if you didn't have that coupon.


Mon, Sep 19, 2011 : 12:27 p.m.

It has been said that the 'greenest' house is the one that already exists. The largest amount of energy, by far, is spent constructing the building in the first place. However when building new is selected there has been a move to build with the most efficient structures possible; such that in houses there are fewer 2 x 4s used which saves on structure and allows for a more consistent layer of insulation. From this perspective this new parking structure is anything but efficient. It is being built with the idea that it MIGHT have another 15 stories on top of it. If those 15 stories are not added it is grossly, grossly overbuilt. If those 15 stories are added but are NOT as assumed already then the garage will have to be renovated to support the additional weight. I also have to assume that it is now being built with some sort of roof which of course will get ripped off and sent to a landfill as soon as a building on top gets started. Buildings are built from the ground up, but designed from the top down. It never made sense to build the foundation for a building you don't have designed yet. It certainly is not 'green' and certainly should not be a model for how to build in the future. But go ahead and pat yourselves on the back for throwing your own sand in the concrete and for detaining some additional stormwater and for efficient lights, etc. The real damage is already done and there is no going back now, so we might as well celebrate the gestures.


Mon, Sep 19, 2011 : 2:10 p.m.

I will echo both yours and Ross' comments. The best "green" idea would have been to avoid building it in the first place!


Mon, Sep 19, 2011 : 1:54 p.m.

Agree 100%. There is zero "green" to be acknowledged in the design of a completely unnecessary, overbuilt, and pointless parking structure. SHAME ON THE DDA.

Chip Reed

Mon, Sep 19, 2011 : 12:07 p.m.

"The DDA has worked throughout this project to minimize its environmental impacts", is a statement that is Orwellian in its depth (no pun intended).


Mon, Sep 19, 2011 : 11:53 a.m.

Not that it's indicative of anything resembling scientific research, but I've never actually met anyone who isn't on the DDA who thinks this parking hole is a good idea. I do work downtown and interact with people around there daily. I will personally never park there. I'm not comfortable parking in the above ground structures as it is. This is the dumbest idea ever and can be added to the laundry list of egregious ways our tax dollars are spent. Interesting reading: The Advisory Board of The Green Parking Council.

David Paris

Mon, Sep 19, 2011 : 11:22 a.m.

"...and energy-saving lights will be used that can cast lower light levels in off-peak periods." This sounds unsafe, but I'm sure safety will be the over-riding priority, otherwise I'm all for the green stuff. And... I don't doubt Macabre Sunsets claim regarding the efficiency, or lack there-of of light rail, it sounds rather anti-green!


Mon, Sep 19, 2011 : 11:10 a.m.

My apologies for the slightly off-topic question, but when is this construction expected to be completed now? The only date I could find in the news was August of 2011, but I assume that goal is no longer accurate. I can't wait for the structure to open, but there are some businesses around there which can't wait in a much more literal sense, meaning I think they are crossing their fingers that they are still even open to see the project completed. The traffic congestion and lack of convenient parking has put quite a strain on a few shops around there, and I've had a hard time finding a realistic hopeful date for the reopening of Fifth and the parking structure


Mon, Sep 19, 2011 : 10:24 p.m.

Thanks for the link a2miguy, but if you would kindly take your attitude and shove it, that would be great. Sorry for not clicking on every link to read every back story. I used the search engine with as many relevant key words I could think of, and each one led to a quagmire of non-related articles and dead ends. And have a nice day to you to sir.


Mon, Sep 19, 2011 : 3:56 p.m.

Here, let me help since you didn't really try that hard. The very first line of this article contains a hyperlink (&quot;underground parking structure&quot;) which takes you to this article: <a href=""></a>


Mon, Sep 19, 2011 : 11:01 a.m.

If Green = $$, then it's green. Otherwise, the award seems quite oxymoronic. For example, is there a green award for the most efficient gas guzzler? ; /

Macabre Sunset

Mon, Sep 19, 2011 : 11:01 a.m.

So, how much is all this &quot;green&quot; rigmarole costing the taxpayers? You mention commuter rail. There is no form of transportation more wasteful than a small commuter rail system. According to the government, it uses more than twice the BTUs per passenger mile as individual passenger cars. Certainly one example of something that's politically correct rather than actually helpful to the environment. Who will pay for all the electricity used by people parking at the charging stations? For that matter, who has the money to buy one of those cars? Seems quite the waste when a charge doesn't even last 100 miles. A technology only the rich can afford.


Mon, Sep 19, 2011 : 1:45 p.m.

Please cite your &quot;government&quot; source for this ridiculous piece of data. Do you really suppose that a packed electric commuter train would use more energy per head than INDIVIDUAL cars? Look at commuter rail in the northeast - packed trains every day. You are off your rocker if you think it would be better for all those folks to drive alone in cars. An electric car with a 100 mile range only can go far enough to meet the needs of some 95% of Americans on a daily basis. The Nissan leaf can be bought for under $30k dollars. Expect improvements to continue and the price to eventually rival inefficient internal combustion engine vehicles. Often I agree with your logic, Macabre, but this post is just negative for the sake of being negative.