Snow Loads & Structural Failures

Roof failures due to snow can result in damage or destruction of valuable building contents and equipment, business interruption, and even loss of life. From 1994 to 2013, winter storms resulted in about $27 billion in U.S. insured catastrophe losses (in 2013 dollars), or more than $1 billion a year on average, according to Property Claim Services and the Insurance Information Institute Inc.

How Exponent Can Help

Most investigations include determining the trigger, the proximate cause, the mechanism of the collapse, contributing factors, and the roles and responsibilities of the various parties.

Clients look to us to provide the most experienced consultants to lead their investigation. Exponent’s team of structural engineers, specialized engineers and scientists, and construction consultants can provide the following services:

  • Structural condition evaluation of roofs
  • Development of roof-specific snow removal strategies
  • Investigation of collapses and other structural damage
  • Identification and preservation of perishable evidence
  • Advice on the stabilization of damaged structures to minimize further collapse and allow removal of contents
  • Meteorological studies to determine the history of snow loads on the building, and the weight of snow on the roof at the time of collapse
  • Simulations using computational fluid dynamics to determine the likely distribution of snow on a roof at the time of collapse
  • Determination of value of business interruption and other financial losses.

Selected Presentations, Papers, and Activities by Exponent Staff

  • Peraza DB, Erdem I, Kane WM. Collapse of jet center hangars under snow load. Presentation to the 2014 Structures Congress, American Society of Civil Engineers, Boston, MA, April 2014.
  • Bennett P, Peterka J, Harris J. A case study in drifting snow behavior. Proceedings, ASCE, Structures Congress, April 2014.
  • Dolhon AM, Ratakonda R. Snow removal strategies of lightweight, flat roof structures. Paper and presentation, Structures Congress, Las Vegas, NV, April 14–16, 2011.
  • Peraza DB. Lessons from recent collapses of metal buildings. Presented at Cold-formed Steel Structures 2000, 15th International Specialty Conference, St. Louis, MO, October 2000.
  • Peraza DB. Hartford Coliseum collapse in retrospect. Presented at ASCE Structural Engineering Congress, Chicago, IL, September 1985.
  • Peraza DB – Member of Snow and Rains Loads Subcommittee of ASCE/SEI 7 standard “Minimum Design Loads for Buildings and Other Structures.”

Other Resources