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Michigan town's smart sidewalks reuse heat to stay snow-free

A smart idea in Holland, Michigan: instead of letting heat from underground pipes dissipate, reuse it to warm streets and sidewalks during bitter Midwestern winters.
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Written by Andrew Nusca, Former editor on

Here's a smart idea: instead of letting heat from underground pipes dissipate, reuse it to warm streets and sidewalks during bitter Midwestern winters.

That's precisely what long-ago residents of Holland, Michigan were thinking when they installed a 120 miles of pipe to keep downtown Holland humming well into freezing winters with Lake Effect snow.

The town, about 150 miles north of Chicago, sits about five miles east of Lake MIchigan, bearing the brunt of the bitter winds that sweep off the water. As such, Hollanders (as they're called) thought to be a bit smarter about the way they planned their city's infrastructure.

Design with Science principal Sally Augustin writes in Metropolis:

Thanks to the underground pipes, no matter how cold it gets, the sidewalks stay clear and dry, all because someone was thoughtful enough to use an industrial by-product that other towns blithely discarded. This early decision, which lead to the installation of 120 miles of tubes, have kept downtown Holland alive, even as towns of similar size have been decimated, with shops decamping to nearby malls.

More recently, city officials have installed a gas-powered hearth right on the sidewalk at one intersection, prompting residents to -- on cold days, of course -- gather around it to warm up, much like a communal fireplace.

Community, quality of life and intelligent infrastructure: that's our kind of town.

Photo: Michigan Municipal League/Flickr

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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