The Importance of Using a Snow Load Calculator for Building Safety

With engineering software, get roof snow load based on your site, building, and roof properties in minutes. Reduce over-conservatism and save time on calculation with these easy-to-use tools.

Unbalanced snow loads cause most structural issues that occur with heavy snow. It can be caused by sliding snow or drifting snow.

Roof Pitch

In colder climates, snowfall can come in a variety of forms. Snow is undeniably heavy, and it only takes a little of it to add considerable weight to a roof structure. Whether it’s a light accumulation over a season or a sudden blizzard, it’s essential to recognize the potential risk and take necessary precautions to prevent any damage to the roof.

Luckily, there are simple ways to calculate a roof’s snow load. 

Roof Material

The amount of snow accumulating on your roof depends on various factors, such as its location, slope, exposure, and wind speed. A professional should determine this information for your specific site.

Aside from the basic design wind speeds based on local weather data, your structural engineer should also consider unbalanced snow loads. Uniform snow loads don’t cause most structural issues that result from heavy snow. Instead, sliding snow on slippery roofs and drifting snow on non-slippery ones can add more weight than your structure is designed to withstand.

Other modification factors to consider include the potential for ice accumulation on structures, snow drifting, and additional loading due to rain-on-snow conditions. Your engineer should determine all these factors for your project before completing the snow load calculation. It will help ensure your structure is safe and durable when handling the winter elements.

Snowfall Patterns

Even a well-designed building can collapse under too much snow, causing damage and risking the safety of the structure’s occupants. Fortunately, a simple snow load calculator can help determine how much your roof can handle before damage occurs.

The density of the snow is a significant factor in this. It is lighter when fresh and becomes heavier as it dries and loses water through gravity settling, wind packing, melting, and recrystallization.

Other factors include the type of snow, building temperature, roof slope, and exposure. The latter can influence how fast snow melts, as well as the amount of snow that accumulates on a roof.

A professional engineer can perform a detailed snow load calculation for your structure. It will require a lot of information and may come with a cost, but it is a worthwhile investment for structural safety and preventing costly repairs and disasters. A professional can also account for other factors that can increase the likelihood of a roof collapse, including unbalanced loading, snow drifting, and ice damming.

Local Building Codes

Snow can be a beautiful part of the landscape, but it can also create a structural overload that could collapse a building or cause costly damage. A professional snow load calculation considers several factors, such as the roof slope, building importance, ground snow loads for the location, and other weather patterns.

The weight of snow determines a commercial structure’s snow load plus its ice mass, which adds up to a force that can impact structural stability. The ice mass is much more dense than the original snow, meaning that a build-up of ice can cause more damage to the structure.

A professional snow load calculation is a cost-effective way to ensure the safety of your building and avoid expensive repairs or insurance claims. 

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