Arriving on the scene with a fresh approach to building car parks, PARKD takes the lead in prefab innovation
If the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge were alive and writing today, he might complain of “cars, cars everywhere, and not a place to park.” It’s the curse of urban development that motorists and business owners know all too well, and it’s an issue that an ambitious startup was born to solve.
The brainchild of Peter McUtchen and David Thomas, PARKD aims to bring true scalability and portability to car parks. That’s right, portability — as in put it up, bolt it down, and when the time is right, unbolt it and move it to another location — with minimal environmental impact.
Incorporated in 2016, and infused by a single round of seed funding, the Perth-based firm is traded on the ASX (ASX:PKD), a decision that’s helped propel the company forward on the fast track. “Promotion and marketing of the business and its construction technology during and after the listing process provided PARKD huge exposure. That's one of the great benefits in taking the company public.” McUtchen reported.
Since the completion of the firm’s introductory project, a multi-storey garage for City Subaru, enquiries have poured in from airports to stadiums, hospitals, and retail settings. But as with all disruptors, the initial reception to PARKD’s breakthrough approach was somewhat more reserved in the traditional corners of the notoriously slow-to-adopt sector.
“The PARKD system competes in a lot of ways with traditional construction. We're promoting a better way to reduce labour on site, time at site, and manage costs on the job,” he admitted. “There's been a pushback from the industry because they like to see things built a certain way. That’s a barrier to entry for a lot of construction technology companies. Everything works very well from an engineering or an entrepreneurial point of view except actually getting accepted by the market.”
Because most of the work to build a parking structure takes place in the actual erection of the building, PARKD’s clever engineers reduced their system components to the main parts: columns, beams, and slabs. Structural elements are prefabricated offsite, then delivered and assembled at the desired location. The car parks can be disassembled and reused in a different location.
This perfect impermanence separates PARKD from other modular approaches, with a routine that can neatly be described as unbolt, move, and re-bolt. This offers business owners unprecedented flexibility, especially since the system can be adapted to fit in areas of any shape, and can be constructed in a fraction of the time it takes to build a traditional concrete garage.
PARKD has used improved existing construction technology to create the Continuously Voided Beam (CVB), the backbone of its proprietary system, which creates beams using an extruded concrete product that delivers exceptional structural performance. The beams are extruded concrete in lengths of up to 200 metres that can then be cut to fit, and require minimal labor to produce. Steel-to-steel connectors link each level. The resulting structure performance to the same level of a permanent structure and designed for earthquake, wind, and fire.
“We see ourselves as leaders in the space. There are other companies that are claiming to disrupt modular construction, but PARKD offers a complete structure that can be reused. That's the unique thing about PARKD,” he stressed.
Safety is among the reasons why the construction industry is reaching out for better solutions. Others are directly linked to efficiency. With PARKD, said McUtchen, “The number of man hours on site for laborers and other contractors is dramatically less. This means workers are less exposed to risky environments. When things are being built in a factory in an automated, controlled environment there's also a lot less opportunity for things to go wrong.”
He added, “What will really drive the changes in productivity is around automation and the improvements in quality in controlled environments. We see that in certain types of structure products, and assets, and we think that our solution is probably the future of the way things will be built.
“There are other companies out there who build semi-modular or partial modular car park solutions, but we are the first ones to try and drive change in the way that we build car parks. We have a lot of backing behind us and we have a solution that is more compatible with what people expect than any of the other systems out there on the market.”
By using construction partners to deliver their projects, PARKD maintains an enviable level of agility both at home and in international markets. “If we want to build in Indonesia, the UK, or Africa, the technology that goes behind our system is available there, so all we would need is to do is contact the existing supply chain for pricing, and import our design knowledge and IP, and get going.”