Site Design (Parking Layout)

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    Clayton Munson

    I am studying for section C of the LARE this December. I’m reading through the “LARE Review: Mastering Section C”. Just reading through this section got me so frustrated because as I think about parking lots that I drive through daily and compare them to the standards that the LARE requires to pass the section There is no way that the design would pass this test. Example: critical failure is having pedestrians cross driving aisles, every 11th stall must be an island, pedestrians can not cross main through way, drop-off must be set off from through way. These are just a few.

    They have a section about parking layout in this book as well as sample problems. One of the sample problems is to design a parking area for a fast food restaurant. The criteria are 25 parking stalls, drive-thru lane W/ BY-PASS LANE. Just trying to get a full size truck through most drive-thru’s now can barely be done. Has anybody ever encountered a fast food restaurant that meets these criteria? Every one that I’ve been to I would have to cross the aisle to get to the door.

    Take your pick of any mega store, Lowe’s, Walmart, Home Dept, Target. How often do you see islands in those parking lots?

    What is everyone’s thoughts on this? Do you think CLARB should rethink their standards?

    P.S. Sorry if this seems like a angry rant. Just a little frustrated with the extreme standards that CLARB has set.

    Greg Bish

    May I suggest that you step back and accept the LARE design criteria for what they are: the LARE design criteria. Someday soon it will be behind you.

    parking criteria vary alot and from client’s odd-ball proprietary standards to the almost infinite variations of review agencies, municipalities. You usually end up having to accept these standards until said project is behind you. (In this respect your LARE experience does correspond to real world experience :).

    I’ve worked in municipalities with parking standards pretty close to those you’ve described.
    (Straban Township, Pennsylvania comes to mind)

    Good Luck with you studies and the exam.

    On a related topic, here’s an image of what i think is one of the most ridiculous drive through conifugartion ever allowed to be built. I’m not sure this image does justice to the on-the-ground experience. See if you can figure out the path of ingress and egress for the unfortunate soul approaching from the west and wanting to access the drive-thru…

    Eric Gilbey

    Welcome to CLARB LAND, as I tell my review session candidates. Key thing to remember is that CLARB (and your state) wants to see proof through the exam that you are minimally competent to protect the public’s Health Safety and Welfare (HSW). And you cannot get around it, so as Greg mentioned, you have to adopt it, because it is your virtual design code for CLARB LAND. On the lighter side, it will cause you to think about those same standards, when you are working on real projects…so your ethical side will make you feel compelled to incorporate these in real world designs. What is relieving is that CLARB makes every effort to keep the reference manual updated with standards, such as ADA, so that you are directed in the most appropriate design method, at the time of the exam.
    In the real world, I wish landscape architects would model the lot and access drives with the proposed plants/features at full height to simulate moving through the site to experience what can/can’t be seen while in a vehicle…then we might see better parking/circulation design. ­čÖé
    Best of luck!
    Let me know if you have any other frustrations or need suggestions in helping to get you past (passed) this section.


    I too am studying for Section C, third!~ attempt! After taking Ray Freeman’s excellent prep class..ill tell you what he told us. You are now entering LARE-Y land! Do not try and make any sense to these vignettes. This will cause you to fail! (which is why i did..twice!). All CLARB cares about is that you follow the LARE reference manual and the vignette questions. IF you try to use common (design) sense, you’ll fail. They dont care about common design sense! (and they do love your money$$$. Lots and lots of it!

    Ever notice why you cant make sense of their scoring system? Ever notice why they dont show you a passing solution in the red-line? Ever notice why you can never figure out why you failed (yes..even while looking at the redline you paid $250 for??).

    GO figr…($$)


    Lori Moore

    Yes, section c is very frustrating. I’m currently trying to pass it (3rd try!) I think that the vignettes I ordered from PPI were helpful, but I wouldn’t bother with the diagnostic vignettes that clarb offers. They are expensive and the graders do not provide very much information.
    Clarb’s parking lot requirements do not make a lot of sense, but I’ve tried to put that out of my mind and try to understand how to pass the test rather than learning the material.

    Richard Wilke


    I read through some of the responses and mostly agree. I failed sections C &E my first try because I thought about the problems too much. It helps if you think of the CLARB criteria as a set of regulation that you have to follow. The more you deal with municipalities’ planning and design requirements, you will find that sometimes it is better to do some things that don’t really make sense and pick your battles. Frankly, a license doesn’t prove that you know anything, but it does get you in the door to the discussion… If CLARB tried to make the exam fit the complexities and differences of the real world, no one would pass.

    Russ Boatright

    Render unto Caesar, and all of that. Its been ages since I’ve taken that test, but I’ve done many lots since then, and I can tell you quite frankly that you must provide yield despite or within the confines of local requirements and codes.
    In this case, since the test is just fantasy, feel free to abandon all yield in favor of touchy feely factors in order to pass the test. Then, make a point of ignoring this approach in favor of value for your client. Your career and society will be the better for it.

    Ben Yahr

    I passed Section C in June– its certainly do-able.

    It was tough to learn to design in ‘LARE-Y’ land, but what frustrated me the most is that the entire LARE (and to a certain extent our profession) is based on accommodating the automobile.

    If you plan to design fast food restaurants and big box stores than I agree that the CLARB standards are extreme. I would hope that anyone hoping to become landscape architect would have higher goals and ideals than those set forth by CLARB and would strive to design solutions that protect the H.S.W. and provide character and sustainability.

    Ray Freeman

    Yes, the exam is frustrating. Always has been.

    Here are some things to keep in mind. The LARE Reference Manual is only 11 pages long. Looked at a Building Code book lately? Some of the CLARB standards are questionable, yes, and they are suburban strip development oriented, but it’s much easier than dealing with real world ordinances and codes.

    Been to a Planning Board or Architecture Review Board meeting lately? (especially in California) These folks are often nut cases. They demand all kinds of outrageous stuff, which you have to provide if you want to get your project approved.

    There’s two reasons the exam is so tough. One, it’s relatively alien territory (esp. C+E). Two, you have a VERY limited amount of time.

    Eric Shepley

    The best advice I was given when preparing for the exams is THEY ARE NOT REAL WORLD PROBLEMS AND DO NOT HAVE REAL WORLD SOLUTIONS! It’s especially frustrating for those who have been out practicing for a while. You get used to having people getting variences and creating shared spaces based on use at different times or getting departments within agencies to overule one another. (Typically the engineering has overuled the landscape standards from my experience.)

    I whole heartedly understand your frustration. As hard as it may be to do, remove yourself from what you think the solution should be and focus on the criteria of the problem and the standards set in the reference manual. It’s not going to be the best designed solution, but it’s what works.

    Good luck.

    Rob Rosner

    The LARE is simply a test to ensure that landscape architects know how to protect the public health and welfare. The vignette portions are designed to be done in a short time with a limited pool of possible answers. I took the LARE in 1994 and passed 6 out of 7 tests on the first try. Was it magic? Am I a true whiz at this? No, I spent about $150 going to a LARE test prep course. It made all of the difference in the world in getting my mind ready for the test. Before that prep course, I was worried about what was on the test and not sure what to expect. The test prep course showed me very clearly that you need to know how to read the problem, pick out the primary requirements for the design, and follow the instructions to the letter know matter how silly or different they seem to the way you are used to doing it. It also made it clear that you are not trying to impress the grader with your graphic ability or how “cool” your design is. You need to simply solve the problem by meeting all of the requirements on the test problem, and do it in a certain amount of time.

    I ended up retaking the site design section over twice. The first retake, I didn’t prepare well and waited until the last minute to cram, ended up working late at the night before. Not a good idea. Since I scored just one point short of passing, I paid $75 to review my test. It was worth every penny. It showed me that I was not following the instructions of the exam to the letter. That is why I didn’t pass. On the next try, I passed with a 92. I was done.

    No matter what, I didn’t give up. I encourage all of you taking the exam to not give up, and keep trying those example problems. Find out how many problems you have to do in however much time and divide it out. Figure how much time you have for each problem and keep track of your time. Time yourself when you doing your practice problems. During the real test, keep track of your time for each vignette.

    Good luck and best wishes!

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