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Considering winter weather and snow removal in your design increases efficiency and public safety.
As one of the people responsible for leading the planning, design and execution of landscape projects on the University of Michigan’s rustic Ann Arbor campus, Marvin Pettway’s focus in the warmer months is to bring the campus alive with a landscape filled with all types of colorful flowers, trees, and bushes. While a beautiful end result is always high on his priority list, Pettway is also responsible for keeping campus streets, sidewalks and plazas clean of snow and ice during Michigan’s notoriously harsh winters. As a result, he gives very special consideration to any new landscaping proposal with regards to how the project will affect campus faculty, staff, and students, as well as the efforts of his own snow removal team when winters worst hits the campus.
A quick clearing of snow from sidewalks and parking areas is essential to public safety. With that in mind, the following are Pettway’s tips on how to use landscape features effectively as snow storage and melt zones.
Snow melt zones near sidewalks and walkways
Pettway recommends designing plenty of open space on both sides of sidewalks for snow melt zones. Providing at least eight feet of clear space on either side of sidewalks and walkways offers ample area for removal crews to clear them completely. These zones are often called “push zones.” Ideally, push zones should slope gently away from sidewalks to prevent snow melt runoff from creating slick spots when re-freezing occurs. Re-freezing itself is a major concern, but is simply a fact of life in the Midwest, Pettway says. And while it’s impossible to fully eliminate re-frozen ice during snow melt periods, he says that taking terrain slope and available drainage into account when determining push zones can increase pedestrian safety in the winter months. Known problem areas can then be handled with deicing chemicals.
Sidewalk construction materials can be a big factor in the ease of snow removal. Pettway says that natural brick surfaces, in particular, can be troublesome. Snowplows don’t glide as smoothly on brick surfaces as they do on concrete. The often uneven surface presents many edges for the blade to snag, potentially lifting bricks out of place. That isn’t to say that the world is doomed to the gray concrete sidewalk. In fact, Pettway has become a fan of the recent trend of using poured concrete slabs with stamped brick patterns in plazas and walkways. He likes these much better than real brick due to the material’s consistency under the blade of a snowplow. “Those pressed concrete sections are just so much more hassle-free to clear than real brick; it’s just amazing,” he says.
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