Decorative image of snow on campus

Comparison of Mechanical Snowplows and Heated Pathway Systems


To align with the University of Calgary’s GHG emissions reduction targets, a group of students in Energy and Environment, Engineering 503 course conducted a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) comparing the emissions efficiency of mechanical snowplows currently being used with two types of heated pathway systems (HPS)⁠—electric and hydronic. This LCA was conducted for the University's Building and Facilities Management department for future use in making more informed decisions on preferred snow removal methods for pathways across campus. The comparison of mechanical snowplows and HPS was completed by Aiman Siddiqi, BSc (Eng)'19, Fatima Qureshi, BSc (Eng)'19, Fatima Syed, BSc (Eng)'20, Rida Khalid,BSc (Eng)'20, and Shivangi Soni, BSc (Eng)'19, under the guidance of Dr. Joule Bergerson.


The results were obtained through a combination of using OpenLCA software and Microsoft Excel. Based on numerous assumptions and calculations, this assessment showed that the hydronic system has a higher potential of reducing GHG emissions by 17% and has the lowest energy demand. The electric system showed to be a less optimal option as it had the highest GHG emissions, energy demand, and costs. The results are sensitive to changes in weather. Snowplows are the cheapest option, followed by hydronic and are six times its cost. UCalgary can use these results to make a more informed decision on which snow clearing method is most effective for campus use.

Next steps:

The results from the LCA can influence the decision for the University to either continue with the use of mechanical snowplows for snow clearing or switch to hydronic or electric heated pathway systems. By switching from snowplows to hydronic heated pathways, UCalgary can get closer to achieving a carbon neutral campus by 2050 by reducing emissions by 17% after 30 years.

However, due to limitations of this LCA, other considerations may be of interest to the University, which were not factored into the scope such as the quality of snow removal.

Future studies can assess HPS with varying energy sources such as renewables, optimizing boiler and pump sizes and quantities of the hydronic system, and finding more accurate material compositions of the snowplow.