Snow Loading

Quantifying wind, climate and thermodynamic factors to address the effects of accumulated snow

In colder regions, the expected weight of accumulated snow can be the governing load for design. Even if this snow loading does not govern, it is often a major component in the strength design of a structure. Getting the loading right at the design stage can save a lot of money in structural materials. More importantly, it ensures the structure is safe.

Local building codes and standards give guidance for snow loads. However, these codes are based on historical observations of snow on the ground surface and existing roofs. A building with amore intricate or larger shape or with improved thermal performance requires new interpretations. In addition, codes can’t address the complex, combined effects of wind and other climate factors.

Snow load simulation in water tunnel

Our service

We provide fine-tuned snow loading patterns for design of buildings and structures. Our analysis takes into account the specifics of the local climate, surroundings, building shape and construction. This approach provides design snow loads that are “better than code.” We have two goals: to reduce costs and to reduce the risk of surprises after construction.

In this analysis, we apply decades of experience and research expertise. We’ve seen all the common issues—and plenty of uncommon ones—and how they’ve been solved. We excel at interpreting climate data for very specific places and times. We’re also recognized worldwide as specialist in the aerodynamics and thermodynamics involved in snow accumulation, especially for complex structures.

We apply this deep technical understanding to interpret results from our sophisticated analysis tools. Our benchmark scale modeling techniques are critical to understanding unique architectural shapes. Talented in-house model builders construct a scale model of the structure, which is placed in a water flume. We introduce particles into a “wind flow” (simulated by water) and observe how they settle and drift on and around the roofs of the model.

We look in equivalent detail at climate conditions specific to the site. Drawing on extensive meteorological data and computing resources, we use our custom statistical methods to develop an hour-by-hour analysis of weather data.

Finally, we apply our custom analysis methodology to assess the relative loads associated with particular design features. With this method, we quantify snow loads over a specified return period, much as we would state risks of wind loading on structures or cladding. In developing this risk analysis, we may use wind tunnel studies to learn where wind-driven accumulation will occur.

Through these analyses, we go beyond typical codes to produce design-ready loads that are easy to implement.