Little-Known Factors of Preparing for Snow

What goes on behind the scenes to ensure that U-M’s winter maintenance teams are able to effectively manage snow? Site design and finding locations to store snow are two aspects of preparing for snow that you may never have considered. These responsibilities are an important way that Business & Finance staff keep the university humming along.

Thoughtful site design makes it possible for snow removal staff to do their work. When designing construction projects, Architecture, Engineering, and Construction (AEC) staff factor in:

  • Sidewalks wide enough to accommodate plowing equipment
  • Overhangs that are high enough for equipment to drive under
  • Somewhere to push snow
  • A slope with proper drainage that discourages water from collecting anywhere it could freeze and create a slipping hazard

Finding places to store snow is a highly collaborative effort by many Facilities & Operations (F&O) departments. If you’ve noticed the big piles of snow that appear during plowing then quickly disappear—literally overnight—that’s the snow storage process at work. Logistics, Transportation, and Parking; Grounds Services; Environment, Health, & Safety; and AEC work together to select suitable off-site locations where snow can be transported and stored.

Plowed snow can contain salt, deicers, litter, and sediment, so it’s important to have a natural buffer that filters snow melt before it reaches a body of water. The site should also have good drainage to prevent flooding. When the snow melts, F&O staff clean up litter, inspect for damage to vegetation, and restore the site as needed.

Environmental sustainability is a major consideration. The university practices sensible salting: applying the right amount in the right place at the right time. This practice promotes safety while also protecting natural ecosystems, such as the plants and animals that live in the Huron River. F&O has reduced average salt usage by 50% since 1990, in part by using salt brine and non-salt deicers. Brine is better for the environment because the salt concentration is lower than rock salt and it can be applied more precisely. Reducing salt usage also protects campus infrastructure from corrosion.

Thank you to the many staff who handle these behind-the-scenes tasks to keep campus running smoothly!

This is the third article in our winter 2018 snow series. Check out the other installments: