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3 Design Tips for Buildings in Cold Climates

Construction of buildings in areas that see large amounts of snowfall can be difficult. A design that works well in summer may be inadequate once the snow starts piling up. This can cause drainage problems and leaking as well as hazardous conditions of snow or ice falling off the roof onto bystanders below or getting blown away by the wind. Measurement of roof snow load is just one of the many considerations that has to go into cold-climate architecture.

Here are some tips for designing a building for climates that are cold and snowy for at least part of the year.

  1. Choose a Durable Roofing Material

The materials best suited to harsh winters include asphalt shingles and metal roofing. The former are somewhat less durable but less costly to repair than options such as slate or wood shingles. Metal roofing almost never springs a leak and sheds snow with ease.

  1. Keep Roof Designs Simple

The more complicated the roof is, with multiple peaks, the harder it is to shed snow and other debris, and the more little crannies snow and ice has to accumulate in. Homes should consider a simple gable roof. Commercial buildings are more likely to have flat roofs, but even an apparently flat roof has to have a slight, almost imperceptible slope that allows precipitation to drain off.

  1. Be Careful About Cutting Holes in the Roof

Every hole that you cut in the roof, whether for a chimney, a gable, or a skylight, presents an opportunity for ice to accumulate or water to leak through. However each of these features also offers its own advantages. In some cases, they are necessary, e.g., you cannot have a fireplace without a chimney. Evaluate your need and make sure that the benefits of adding features such as these outweigh the risks.

If you do add features to the roof, position them carefully. For example, the best place for a chimney is at the highest point since gravity works on snow and ice and tends to pull them away.

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