Building Winterization

According to the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association (AUMA), the heavier than average snowfall in Alberta this past winter was cited as a contributing factor for the roof collapse of more than two dozen buildings. A couple of high-profile examples include: the partial roof collapse of the older arena in the Town of Sylvan Lake shortly after midnight on January 20, 2014; and the roof collapse of the curling club in the Town of Drayton Valley in the afternoon of January 24, 2014 (several people were in the building at the time). The same pattern was reported in Saskatchewan communities, with high winds also cited.

Changing weather can impact any business; extreme cold, high winds, heavy snow and ice can immobilize a building, facility or entire area leading to physical property damage and interruption of business operations. Winter storms can also result in power outages, flooding, closed transport networks and blocked roads. Geographical locations that normally do not experience such extremes are now seeing these weather effects more frequently.

Examples of winter-related hazards include:

• Heavy snow or ice accumulation on building roofs, outdoor equipment, power lines, leading to potential collapse.
• Low temperatures causing freezing of water filled pipes, including process and sprinkler systems.
• Blocked roof drainage systems and gutters leading to back up of water and subsequent ingress into buildings.
• Temporary heaters creating potential fire hazards.
• Heating system failure leading to low temperatures within facilities.

Here are some tips to help minimize damage that may occur from winter weather:

• Make arrangements for snow removal from roads, roofs, gates, doorways, outdoor valves, fire hydrants, etc. It’s recommended that whomever you hire for this task be insured and/or bonded and have referrals or experience with these specific operations.
• Identify and consider removing any large trees or limbs that could fall due to snow or ice loading and damage buildings, outdoor equipment, power lines, etc.
• Ensure all buildings are “weather tight.” Close all windows, doors, vents, etc. and seal any openings in exterior walls, ceilings, roofs, etc.
• Indoor temperature for all heated buildings should be consistently maintained above freezing or at minimum 4°C.
• All unoccupied or vacant buildings should be checked every 72-96 hours and a log maintained of every inspection.
• Evaluate your roof’s snow load capacity. Be prepared to remove excess snow build up during storms if necessary. The accumulations listed below are guidelines only, as ice or wet snow could result in a heavier load:

  • For commercial buildings, condominiums or apartment buildings, the Alberta Building Code states that removal should be considered after 20in or 50cm of snow accumulation.
  • For a typical house roof, snow removal should occur once 16in or 40cm has accumulated.

• Inspect roofs for any obvious structural or maintenance issues as repair as needed:

  • Cracked or bent beams, joists or columns.
  • Rusted or deteriorated decking.
  • Cracked or deteriorated roof coverings.
  • Any areas where water is pooling or accumulating.

• Verify all roof drains, drain pipes and gutters are free of debris and have proper water drainage.
• Inspect all heating systems (heating & boilers, furnaces, ovens, space heaters, etc.) to ensure proper operation.
• Inspect all process, water, fuel, steam, tanks, etc. lines subject to freezing for proper insulation. Check said systems for cracking, warping or any leakage.
• Drain any water laden equipment or piping located in unheated areas or unoccupied/vacant buildings.

Blog Author: Aliya Daya | Commercial Account Executive | Rogers Insurance Ltd.

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