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As Roofs Collapse from Heavy Snow, Should Standards be Toughened? 

The excessive show fall amounts that have hit many pasts of the U.S. have caused an alarming number of roof collapses.  Structural engineers may be looking at stricter standards for roofs.  Some say the standard should be set to 60 pounds per square foot.  If that's the case, many buildings will need to increase the load bearing of their roofs.

In the early days of the 20th century, there were very few building codes at all of any kind.   Structural engineers have improved safety by creating standards and codes that must be met by law when structures are built.  Older buildings must make structural improvements in order to meet codes and standards.

Collapses involving the weight of snow on roofs happen most frequently to large, flat roofs.   The longer snow is left uncleared, the heavier it gets as fluctuations in temperature cause the snow to melt and then freeze again.  This produces layers of ice that get larger as more snow falls on top.  This process creates heavier and heavier weight on the roof which will stress the underlying supports.

Pitched roofs are an effective way to combat this wintery problem but they have their own problems this time of year.  Pitched roofs can have their gutters filled and cause leaks in roofs near the edges as ice blocks the gutter and overflows back on the roof.  Icicles can also become dangerously long and large in this weather cycle.

Besides increasing weight load standards, structural engineers try to think of ways to improve a building's ability to minimize the effects of heavy snowfall.  Adding Strategically placed solar panels can not only produce heat to melt snow but they also be made to rise at angles to make it easier for snow to slide away.

Gutters that can be heated are another potential answer for buildings with pitched roofs.  The challenge is doing it in the most "green" way possible.  

As society wrestles with these problems the need is renewed for Structural, Architectural, "Building" engineers to ensure that buildings are safe in all kinds of weather and environmental conditions.