By Phill Sexton
Managing Director and Senior Adviser
The additional stresses winter weather causes parking lot conditions and parking management professionals are unlike those experienced inside by building managers.
Cost control, risk management, and rising expectations for near-perfect conditions (e.g., black top, wet, zero tolerance) are typical challenges parking managers face.
Liability linked to the overuse of de-icing salts (e.g., rock salt, sodium chloride) will challenge the parking industry in the near future. Numerous research studies have validated much of non-point source chloride contamination of freshwater bodies, and aquifers originate from parking surfaces.
Therefore, parking managers must prepare for future regulations and liability linked to their use of de-icing salts to control slippery winter conditions (See Figure 1, below).
Here are several ways to improve your ability to manage winter weather parking conditions.
What To Measure
As the well-known business adage goes, you must measure what you want to improve.
- Measure parking lots and compare them with industry production rates established by the Snow and Ice Management Association (SIMA) to predetermine the minimum and maximum snow clearing production times and de-icing salt application rates.
- Measure surface temperatures (not air temperature) when comparing to application rate guidelines. Analyze salt application rate output on a per-application basis.
- Measure level of service (LOS) expectations and results. This can be achieved using site weather cameras or assigning someone to visually observe and document snow operations, including taking pictures for reference.
It’s important to understand when LOS expectations are being met and when they are perhaps being over-serviced, which typically includes salt over-application.
What To Calibrate
Sustainable Salt Initiative
Salt application rate guidelines have been established through the Sustainable Salt Initiative. You can review the guidelines at www.witadvisers.com/sustainable-salt-initiative.
Calibrate salt equipment to confirm minimum and maximum material flow rates. Calibration should be pre-season and mid-season at a minimum.
Recalibration should also be performed anytime a repair or other changes are made to salt application equipment.
Calibration of storm response times with resource allocations (i.e., quantity of people and equipment) is also important to practice. Timing of storms and accumulation thresholds, compared with shift schedules, for example, are important to establish.
What To Prevent
Prevent the bonding of snow and ice on pavement by using anti-icing application techniques when conditions allow. Although dry salt can be effective, salt brine is recommended to prevent dry salt’s bounce-and-scatter waste.
When outsourcing to contractors, prevent the overuse of salt with service contract terms that incentivize for efficiency rather than charge by the amount or the frequency of service and materials use.
What To Analyze
Analyze inconsistencies with plow production and salt application rates by categories of variables including:
- Parking lot/road
- Vehicle (truck)
- Equipment (spreader type)
- Operator (driver/employee)
This analysis can be achieved using GPSenabled technology and salt-tracking hardware that is now readily available to private parking operators.
What To Improve
Improve salt rate output by analyzing inconsistencies of measured salt application rates. Identify the lowest measured rate that achieves the desired level of service, and recalibrate all salt application equipment to the lowest successful rate(s).
Improved production cycle times can be achieved using site maps and scheduled operator training on how to best route a site or a portfolio of sites.
What To Optimize
Optimize dry salt output by pre-wetting dry salt flow with salt brine at the spinner of the spreader. Salt is only effective for melting snow in its liquid form, which is brine. Pre-wetting dry salt helps to expedite the needed brine reaction.
New plow technology options enable greater efficiencies for clearing snow accumulation from parking lot surfaces down to near-bare conditions. Less snow and ice accumulation left on the parking lot surface means less salt needed.
Sustainable Winter Management Guidelines
Interested In Learning More?
Access NPA's on-demand webinar, Ready, Set, Snow: How to Winterize and Protect Your Parking Lot. Learn more & access today.
Sustainable Winter Management (SWiM™) guidelines are available for parking managers and properties to follow. Benefits of following the guidelines include saving money, managing risk, and reducing salt use to provide environmental benefits.
Although SWiM certification audit guidelines include over 100 criteria that must be met for a property to earn SWiM SITE™ certification, the broad criteria are available for any parking owner or manager to apply. These straightforward policies offer standards for in-house or contracted parking lot maintenance operations.
Whether the parking setting is retail or off ice, public or private, the policy standards are consistent in developing a sustainable winter management program. Following the guidelines in their proper order and holding maintenance operations accountable will achieve the best results and benefits.
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