“I would recommend snow melt in every capital project involving sidewalks in a snowy area.”

It only makes sense for the leadership of New Buffalo to install a snowmelt system while they replace the sidewalks and streets downtown.  As Albert Camus said, “We can’t possibly change the circumstances of our future if we are fully satisfied with the circumstances of the present.’

Photos of downtown New Buffalo after the February snowstorm.

Photos of the downtowns with snowmelt systems, Holland sidewalks and streets, South Haven sidewalks only, and Grand Rapids, sidewalks only.

Take it from architect, and Sustainability Director of the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York, Jodi Smits Anderson, “I would recommend snow melt in every capital project involving sidewalks in a snowy area.”

1. Long-term Cost Savings
When compared to the costs associated with manual snow removal, snow melting can actually cost less in the long run. A 3,000 ft2 sidewalk snowmelt system cost the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York (DASNY) $50,000 to install and $2,500 a year to operate. Prior costs to manually maintain snow and ice were $8,500 for overtime labor, salt and chemicals, and interior cleaning. Using these numbers, this system begins to save the DASNY $6,000 per year after just 8 years. Payback periods can be significantly shortened if the system is also used to harness solar energy from the pavement.

2. Environmental Savings
Snowmelt systems eliminate the need for salts and harsh chemicals intended to remove and prevent ice. When the snow and ice melts and turns to water, this water transfers the salt and chemicals into the surrounding environment. This can lead to dead plants and salt laden runoff into streams and rivers. Reducing the use of chemicals not only saves money, but it helps the environment as well.

3. Preservation of Aesthetics
The use of erosive materials, abrasive snow removal methods, and thermal shock has harsh consequences on the aesthetics and lifespan of pavements. Furthermore, salt and chemicals are brought indoors via pedestrian traffic and can deteriorate interior flooring made of granite, carpeting, and hardwoods.

4. Safety
By not having to manually remove snow, you reduce injury liability for both staff and pedestrians. “Snow and ice removal is one of the most physically damaging aspects of facility management.” Liability can bear a huge cost when it comes to slip-and-fall accidents. Snowmelt systems can help reduce the liability risk for owners. This is a huge factor when one lawsuit could cost thousands of dollars.

The cost of a snowmelt system depends on many variables, meaning the payback period will be different for any specific system. It is important to look beyond the basic financial analysis of a snowmelt system and realize that there are many benefits that can drastically shorten the ROI.


2 thoughts on ““I would recommend snow melt in every capital project involving sidewalks in a snowy area.”

  1. Susan Gotfried Post author

    JoJo, the Downtown Development Authority doesn’t have the expertise or intellectual curiosity to move forward with a sustainable community concept and Pajay doesn’t have the expertise to install a snowmelt system (and New Buffalo certainly would not go elsewhere but Oselka for the downtown work). They are stuck in 20th century technology because they lack the desire to change. Their comfort level is in reproducing what they know instead of challenging themselves to look at what is available today that will help them with future needs. They rushed into a fragmented plan without exploration of new technological advancements that could save energy costs, reduce pollution and increase the economic base of the downtown. I bet they aren’t even planning on installing charging stations for electric cars.

  2. JoJo

    The city will NEVER do anything this smart as you have promoted it. Sad that the city council and manager cannot do anything progressive, rather always wasting someone else’s money (never their own) on out-dated, obsolete projects.

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