'Get Outta My Dreams'

Industry support and design assistance will help make concrete parking lots a reality for contractors.

We love our cars. Of the one billion on-road vehicles in the world, nearly one-quarter of them cruise the roads in the United States. But as much as we love to drive, our cars spend far more time parked – 96 percent of the time in fact. While much of that time is in a driveway or garage, a good portion of your vehicle spends time in a parking space, possibly in a concrete parking lot but more likely in an asphalt one.

More than 90 percent of the nation’s surface parking lots are constructed with asphalt. While some might see the above statistics as a win for the asphalt industry, the optimistic concrete contractor sees them as an opportunity for concrete.

Ray Merlo, co-owner of Merlo Construction, Milford, Mich., is one of these optimistic contractors. In this issue’s cover story, Merlo explains how his company converted a one-million-square-foot parking lot from asphalt to concrete. As the story demonstrates, the potential for the concrete industry to increase parking lot market share is great. But the story also shows the challenges contractors face when working to convert a planned asphalt parking lot to concrete. Those challenges include:

  • A contractor’s time commitment
  • Getting a well-designed, apples-to-apples concrete parking lot option
  • Initial price

The good news is there is help for contractors. The National Ready Mixed Concrete Association and other concrete promotion groups throughout the country offer parking lot design assistance and backup to help contractors convince building owners to consider a concrete lot. Merlo also suggests establishing a relationship with a local engineer who understands concrete parking lot design.

While it is not always possible or practical to design a concrete lot for the same price as an asphalt lot, Merlo says sometimes close is enough. “With some customers, you only need to get close on price. If you get within 5 to 10 percent, some owners will see the benefits of lifecycle costs,” he explains.

Of course, not all owners will care about long-term benefits, but the ones who do are the owners with whom you should spend your precious time. Move the conversation away from initial price and instead focus on “lifecycle cost,” sometimes referred to as “total cost.” This is the sum of initial cost and maintenance costs throughout the life of a pavement. While material prices and better designs are making it easier to offer concrete parking lot initial costs that are in line with asphalt pricing, concrete makes its best strides with its invariably lower maintenance costs throughout the life of the pavement.

Flipping parking lots from asphalt to concrete is a business move that requires time and commitment from a contractor. When you utilize the above-described assets and selling techniques, you can improve your chances of turning your concrete parking lot dreams into reality.