Snow and ice falling from buildings

How to avoid Snow and ice falling from buildings.

Sheets of snow and ice falling and being blown off buildings are a major hazard that can cause damage to the structure, equipment, and possibly injure someone. Winter conditions have been accounted for in the building design process for a long time, but mostly in a way that only accounts for the weight of the snow and ice acumination and how it will affect the building’s structure. New technologies, innovations, and design trends are requiring that more attention be paid to the dangers of snow and ice when designing and maintaining a building.

Before energy conservation was a big concern buildings were basically large boxes with inefficient insolation that would leak phenomenal amounts of heat that would melt most of the snow and ice almost immediately. Most older building also had simpler designs with smooth walls, and a flat roof with a tall parapet on top to contain snow and ice accumulation so it can be safely drained away. The only real concern back then was how much snow weight could the structure hold, and there were building codes and regulations to account for this.

With advancements in technology, materials, and engineering, buildings are vastly more energy efficient, retaining almost all their heat which creates a colder exterior for snow and ice to accumulate on. Some of these new materials create smooth surfaces snow and ice can slide down in an uncontrolled way causing hazards below. These new materials also allow for more complex building designs, which can create areas where snow and ice can accumulate in unforeseen dangerous ways. These advancements in technologies, materials, and building designs have immense benefits, but also create new problems and hazards which need to be addressed.


The most cost-effective way to address these hazards is in the design phase of the building. There are microclimate professionals that can take data such as local historic weather conditions, surrounding buildings, the building’s airflow patterns, shadow patterns, along with other factors and help identify any potential environmental problems with a building’s design before it is built. These microclimate professionals can also recreate designs in test conditions to see how they perform. It is highly recommended to consult a microclimate professional when designing a building to address potential hazards before the building is built and more expensive fix must be made.

Older buildings will still need to address this problem as they are constantly being upgraded to be more efficient and new buildings being built around them impacting their microclimate. This is where a snow and ice melt system should be installed for safety. Snow and ice acumination that forms in new ways on a building can cause unforeseen consequences. Water can freeze between and behind structures, expanding and causing structural damage. Drainage paths can be overwhelmed in some areas, causing refreezing and accumulation. New areas can become shaded by new buildings in the area causing accumulation where there wasn’t before that needs to be addressed and properly removed. A snow and ice melt system can increase the safety and protection of a building by minimizing the amount of accumulation and keeping drainage paths clear.

Preventing snow and ice buildup is important for the safety of a buildings structure, equipment, and the safety of people below. Whether it is in the design process, or after it is built a building needs to be able to manage snow and ice effectively. Any building’s microclimate should be periodically checked and analyzed to identify and address any problems, especially when they can impact the safety of the people below.

Click Here to view ETI's Heat Trace and Snow and Ice Melt controls.