A safe path with snow-melt installation

A snow-melt installation on top of a 300-metre pedestrian bridge, suspended over a busy U.S. interstate highway and railroad tracks, became the first large-scale use of Uponor PP-RCT in North America. The bridge provides a safe pathway to thousands daily and combines the two sides of Utah’s largest public university in Orem.

The ability to melt snow on the upper landings and the walkway is a critical element for safety, to both walkers and the vehicles below, as Orem receives, on average, more than a metre of snow annually. The bridge has a “hybrid” snow-melt installation as it involved both PP-RCT polymer pipe, shorthand for polypropylene, random copolymer, with modified crystallinity and temperature resistance, and crosslinked polyethylene polymer plastic pipe, better known as PEX-a. This special project required approximately 600 metres of PP-RCT through bridgework to feed almost 11 kilometres of PEX for the snow-melt system.

On the recommendation of the project’s engineering company, the original specification calling for large diameter steel pipe for the hydronic-distribution piping was changed to PP-RCT. One motive was that the steel pipes would have been a lot heavier than PP-RCT, making the build more complicated, and the work would have involved welding. Another reason was that a non-corrosive plastic polymer would be better able to withstand the salt and magnesium chloride Utah uses for snow and ice melting. As PP-RCT is also far easier to handle, it is less labour-intensive to install.

The snow-melt portion of the job went smoothly, and installations were done without any problems, as PEX for snow melt was a known entity for the engineers.
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