With city and town budgets continuing to shrink, public works officials need to make sure departments are operating at peak efficiency. One strategy is to ensure that your winter snow and ice control operations are making efficient use of one of your most important commodities—salt.
Salt is the most economical and widely used deicing material, which public works agencies, municipalities and independent contractors consistently rely on in any location that endures winter weather. Rock salt is already hundreds of millions of years old when it is mined, so it’s easy to understand how it never loses its deicing capabilities. While time does not diminish the salt’s deicing power, exposure to moisture and the elements will. Providing adequate covered storage for this valuable investment is imperative, and in the long run, it will save you money while providing much needed availability and convenience.
Using proper bulk storage facilities will optimize salt quality and speed up delivery and loading times. Ensuring adequate coverage for salt stores will not only help increase efficiency, it will also keep you from violating environmental regulations regarding groundwater contamination. There are laws in place to protect water supplies, and municipalities that do not practice proper salt storage could find themselves facing additional expenses if excessive runoff occurs.
While salt storage regulations can differ from state to state, most share the same basic principle that municipalities and businesses must prevent excessive runoff from their salt piles. In Wisconsin, for example, an impermeable surface and year-round cover is required for salt storage. Complying with these regulations may be a challenge if the correct form of storage is not used.
There are two common options for salt storage—tarps and buildings. Tarps are an outdated method of salt storage and most municipalities are moving away from this practice because it can be inconvenient and even hazardous during severe weather. Removing the tarp to load salt during a weather event could put employee safety at risk and also leave salt exposed to the elements. Salt that gets wet can cake and become difficult to work with. Because of the unreliability of tarps, many public works agencies are moving towards salt storage structures to comply with regulations and make operations more efficient.
There are three main types of structures that you can choose for your salt storage needs: wood, steel and tension fabric. Wood and steel structures have traditionally been the most common type of salt storage structure, but tension fabric buildings are quickly rising in popularity. When deciding which type of structure is right for your department,consider the following factors.
• Size: Wood structures tend to have a maximum width of 150′ and can be built to any length. Dimensions for metal structures are often predetermined by the manufacturer, so customization is limited. Fabric strictures are usually available in widths up to 300′ and also can be built to any length.
• Materials: When working with a contractor for a wood structure, be sure you know what grades of lumber they are using. It is also important to check the lumber for any defects. Similarly, with a metal building, be sure you know what gauge metal it is (commonly 29-gauge steel sheets). For fabric buildings, the top manufacturers will make their frames out of triple-galvanized structural steel tubing.
• Wind and snow loads: It should go without saying that the building needs to be designed to withstand the levels of wind and snow in your area. Fabric buildings can be engineered to your specific location and designed to withstand up to 150 mph wind loads.
• Life and warranties: You’ve just made an investment in something and you want it to last. With proper maintenance, a wood structure has a lifespan of 20 years and a steel structure will often last 10 to 15 years. Fabric structure manufacturers say the average lifespan of the covers is 25 years and the frames will last a lifetime. The average warranty for the covers is 15 years.
While tension fabric structures are the newest option on the market for sand and salt storage, they are not a new technology. Farmers started using these structures in the 1950s for livestock housing and hay and equipment storage. Because of the many benefits and lower average cost of fabric structures, they have become a popular choice outside of the agricultural industry as well.
Unlike wood and metal buildings which require long construction times and relatively frequent maintenance, fabric buildings can be installed in less than a week and require minimal maintenance—just twice yearly inspection of building components and tightening bolts as needed. The clear span design of fabric structures is also beneficial for use as salt storage facilities. With no internal support posts or columns, loaders and trucks can operate freely. High clearances make it easier for delivery trucks to unload salt right inside the structures.
Fabric structures are considered the most economical option not only because they are often up to 30% less expensive than wood and steel buildings, but also because of the light filtering effect of the fabric covers. Daytime natural light filters through the white cover of a fabric building, eliminating the need for artificial lighting during daylight hours. The white interior of the covers reflects light, reducing the number of light fixtures required for nighttime operation.
The cost effectiveness of a fabric structure itself also allows snow removal companies, private businesses and municipalities alike to receive a larger building for their budget than if a wood or steel structure is chosen. With a bigger structure, shortages can be avoided during heavy-demand periods because ample amounts of salt can be ordered early in the season, eliminating the need for emergency shipments.
With a variety of options for salt storage, it is important for public works officials to focus on the most economical and appropriate choice for the needs of their cities and towns and also for the site itself. While tarps are inexpensive, they pose safety and environmental hazards that override the benefits of cutting costs. Instead, a long-term, economical solution in the form of a salt storage structure is often the most advantageous decision.
Make the right decision and go with a ClearSpan™ Hercules Truss Arch Building.