Sunday, January 19, 2014

CPTED in covered parking

Sightlines into the underground Metrotown parking from upper mall levels

Beneath the behemoth Metrotown mall lies the second largest covered mall in Canada, a vast underground lot with 4,000 spaces. That might seem small compared to the world’s largest at the West Edmonton Mall in Edmonton (20,000), the world’s largest covered lot at Seattle’s airport (13,000) or the largest downtown underground lot in Chicago (9000).

Yet Metrotown is big. And it joins thousands like it around the world, some massive. Dubai is planning 40,000. You might assume the existence of widely used design safety standards in such places. You know what they say about assumptions!


Some municipalities do have design snippets (CCTV, lighting, security patrols), and the National Institute of Building Sciences also posts a few. But, realistically, those are a pittance in such massive expanses.

I’ve written about some great designs like lifestyle malls and creative wayfinding. 
As well, Randall Atlas’s book 21st Century Security and CPTED (2nd edition) has over 40 pages about parking lot security.

Walking through Metrotown I remembered teaching CPTED for the RCMP in the 1990s. We often used the Metrotown parking lot as our lighting test-bed, auditing the entranceways, examining the lighting and marveling at the vast expanses. I was impressed last week that Metrotown owners have instituted significant design upgrades over the past decade. The photos tell the story.

Dedicated pedestrian walkways. White painted ceilings.
Window glazed atrium safe areas adjacent to security office.

  1. Separate paths for pedestrians, color-coded with different light sources than the rest of the lot to enhance wayfinding.
  2. Sodium lighting (recall the yellow versus white lighting debate in the comment section of my blog on lighting ). However in this case lighting dispersion was more even and intense than years ago. White wall paint enhanced reflectivity. Looking out into the lot it was easy to see before walking to cars.
  3. Pedestrian entranceways from the upstairs mall were designed with transparent glass to allow clear sightlines from top to bottom.

The best feature had been enhanced from early years. It was the glazed atriums on each stairway level. Pedestrians walking down the stairs first entered enclosed safe atrium areas on each floor. These areas had tempered glass and were often next to the security office. This gave a clear view into the parking lot from within the safe areas.

If we are going to do more covered parking in the 21st Century, here's a starting point for minimum standards.

Clear sight-lines from atrium. Prevention education signs.

Leave a comment

Please add comments to SafeGrowth. I will post everyone except posts with abusive, off-topic, or offensive language; any discriminatory, racist, sexist or homophopic slurs; thread spamming; or ad hominem attacks.

If your comment does not appear in a day due to blogspot problems send it to and I'll post direct.