Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Ultimate Amenity This Winter: Heated Sidewalks

As heavy, wet snow blanketed New York City then quickly turned to slush, the sidewalks in front of some luxury apartment buildings remained pristine. As if by magic, snowflakes melted as they touched the ground in front of these upscale addresses thanks to what is turning out to be the ultimate amenity this winter: heated sidewalks.
Common in ski resorts out west, heated sidewalks are a rarity in New York City. But during this winter season, the feature is drawing new attention. Suppliers say interest and inquiries have picked up recently from homeowners sick of shoveling.

Developers looking for a new way to stand out from an already amenity-laden crowd have taken note, as the immaculate condition of entryways with heated sidewalks has emerged as a clear distinguisher amid the harshest winter in years.

“It’s a big plus for us,” said a well-groomed doorman in a double-breasted overcoat at 535 West End Avenue, where the heated sidewalk is going on its third winter.

“It cuts the work down.” Meanwhile, across the street, at 530 West End Avenue, the sidewalk was equally clean, but the doorman and superintendent were nursing sore backs from shoveling.

High-heeled residents aren’t the only ones who enjoy the warm walkways. Dogs love it too, as there is no need for salt, which can be irritating to tender paws.

Ubiquitous in luxury ski resorts out west; heated sidewalks are a rarity in New York City. That may be partly because the wintry mix the city typically receives is more manageable than the relentless battering of snow, ice and sleet experienced this year.

With a heated sidewalk, not only is the doorway clear, but people aren’t dragging as much snow into the lobby, reducing the probability of slips and falls, he added. Plus, it frees up building staff to focus on other duties. Instead of chopping up ice on the sidewalk, for example, they can make sure that basement pipes are not freezing.

Heated sidewalks can also cut down on winter wear and tear.

Snow melt systems come in two basic varieties. Electric systems, which rely on electric coils under the pavement, can be easy to install but costly to run -- at anywhere from $9,000 to $14,500 a year for 1,000 square feet of sidewalk.

Hydronic systems, which rely on plastic tubing looped beneath the sidewalk and contain a mixture of antifreeze and water that is heated by a boiler, have a higher upfront cost but can be less expensive to operate, averaging between $2,000 and $3,000 per 1,000 square feet a year.

Advanced snow melt systems can be programmed to automatically turn on when sensors in the sidewalk detect precipitation combined with temperatures below freezing and have different zones and sensors capable of responding to runoff and other factors.

Cost-wise, it’s expensive, with installation costs in the six-figure range for a large sidewalk. The application process can be onerous, requiring a public hearing and substantial fees for the use of space underneath sidewalks. Not to mention the risk of damage if, say, the city needs to dig up the sidewalk for any reason.

Indeed, heated sidewalks are a luxury; but during this winter season, the feature is drawing new attention. Suppliers say interest and inquiries have picked up recently from homeowners sick of shoveling.

Everybody is looking to differentiate their new developments or conversion from one another. So many things have been done —playrooms, gyms, sky lounges, media rooms. But now developers are looking at the experience of entering the property.

But first, property owners must apply for “revocable consent” from the Department of Transportation for the right to construct and maintain a snow melt system under the sidewalk, as it is city property.

As the name implies, the department retains the right to revoke consent at any time.

On top of this, an annual fee is associated with the use of the sidewalk that is based on factors ranging from the volume of the installation to property values.

The costs for residential developments have annual fees anywhere from $6,000 to $20,000. And that doesn’t count how much it costs to operate.

Ultimately, a huge amount of energy is required to accomplish what one person can do with shovel in 20 minutes. Maybe I’m just old-fashioned.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Electrical Accident Kills One, Injures 2 Others

An electrical accident at a Bossier Parish park in Louisiana killed one worker and injured two others last week.

Brandon Beaver, 34, was killed on the grounds of Cypress Black Bayou Park while working on a ground-level transformer.

There had been some electrical issues reported at the park, and three contractors were working on the equipment when the accident happened.

Park Rangers reported that two electricians had been gripped by the current flowing from a live power line through their bodies. Beaver reportedly shoulder-checked the men from the power line, but was fatally injured in the process.

OSHA is now investigating the incident. OSHA's public affairs office says investigators will interview witnesses and employees, and look for any violations at the area where the accident happened.