Mitigating the Impact of Snow Storms in Your Facilities

The first step for a sound prevention plan is to Assess Your Vulnerability.

  • Is your area typically hard hit in the winter?
  • Does your facility shut down operations during winter holidays or weekends?
  • Does your manufacturing process generate heat within the building?
  • Have you ever noticed pronounced icicle formation following roof snow accumulation?
  • Have you ever noticed doors not closing properly during severe cold snaps?

Probably one of the most catastrophic losses experienced during winter is roof collapse. In the recent past, this has had more impact on pre-engineered steel buildings, but it can also have an impact on stepped roofs where snow drifts can accumulate. In pre-engineered steel buildings, owners should monitor the displacement of the roof should a heavy snow storm affect the area, and have an action plan in place for snow removal. For buildings with flat or stepped roofs, ensure that roof drains are not blocked and are functioning properly. Finally, for older buildings, be on alert for combined snow and rain loads, as earlier buildings’ codes did not fully acknowledge this condition as a possible roof loading.

Possibly a less anticipated form of damage during winter occurs during extended periods of sub-freezing temperatures. This most often will affect manufacturing or process facilities that have operations shut down during the holidays, but this can also affect any area of a building with piping in close proximity to exterior walls. Of utmost importance during these cold snaps is to ensure that someone familiar with building operations is aware of the coming temperature swings. 

Preparations should be in place for addressing damage to equipment or piping, especially fire protection systems. Finally, always maintain a consistent and reliable source of heat within the building during operation shut downs.

It is also important to observe the effects of sub-freezing temperatures on the building to build the base of knowledge for future remediation. If you notice significant or concentrated icicle formations, this is usually a sign of a poorly insulated roof, or possibly ineffective roof drains. This is a condition that warrants review so that more significant damage within the building envelope can be prevented. If you notice doors not closing properly or interior walls that crack during a cold snap only to close once temperatures rebound, this is likely a lack of perimeter frost protection. This is a condition that should be corrected so that voids in the soil below do not cause more significant damage to the building.

With good planning in place and a keen eye during severe cold events, you can be well prepared for the worst of winter.