Heated sidewalk trend afoot in Twin Cities

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Some locales in the Twin Cities won't have to wait for Mother Nature to melt the snow away thanks to the work of an Apple Valley company.

KSTP says Uponor is changing the snowy and frozen landscape of Minnesota, literally, with its sidewalk heating business.

From the Minnesota Zoo to the Interchange Plaza connecting the blue and green light rail lines that will open in April, heated sidewalks are saving businesses the cost of labor to shovel the sidewalks and keeping people safe in the process.

"We don't have to maintain it, we don't have to shovel the snow, and it's a clean, dry, safe experience for our guests coming in the front door," Minnesota Zoo Director of Facilities Ken Kornack tells KSTP.

Minnesota isn't the only place Uponor does business. The Business Journal says the company installs two to three heated sidewalks in New York City a year.

The sidewalks are warmed through an underground system where steam rises from tubes with scalding hot water running through them. The cost of the Interchange Plaza heated sidewalk project near Target Field wasn't disclosed by Hennepin County, but an Uponor representative told KSTP that a project one-tenth the size would cost about $100,000.

Still, the transit station project makes sense to county officials, since the steam is recycled heat from the HERC waste plant next-door. Instead of steam rising from the plant, it recycles down and rises from the pavement, KSTP says.

"We thought this would be a useful benefit of the heat which would normally just be wasted," Hennepin County Environmental Services Director Carl Michaud tells the station.

KSTP says it's unlikely other heated sidewalks will be implemented at other transit stations, since the Interchange Plaza was chosen specifically because of its proximity to HERC. Still, the planners behind the Nicollet Mall redesign hope somehow to implement heated sidewalks into the project, KSTP says.

The New York Times says heated sidewalks are a trend in New York City, where systems have been installed outside of high-end apartment buildings. The Chicago Tribune said heated sidewalks outside of apartment buildings have also gotten a warm welcome because of the brutal winter in the Windy City.

Heated sidewalks and driveways are also an option for homeowners. Home Advisor spells out the costs and benefits.

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