Snow Load’s Effect on Architecture

    Record Precipitation

    While the West Coast is mired in what could wind up being the worst drought in 500 years, the East Coast is experiencing its own share of abnormal precipitation, albeit to the opposite effect as here in California. Those on the opposite coast and their homes are bearing the full brunt of one of the coldest Februaries of all time. The only problem is, some of their houses are buckling under the weight of heaps of snow.

    Boston Snowfall Suburban Road William Mungall

    Bostonians are getting weighed down by snow in 2015.

    Snow Accumulation’s Architectural Consequences

    A recent article in Architect Magazine detailed the full extent of the damage that Boston has sustained through over a full month of heavy winter weather. Both municipal and residential buildings have suffered from the weather, with heavy loads of snow causing roofs to leak and cave in. The article estimates that over six feet of snow have been dropped on Boston since January (eight feet total this winter). The possibility for roof damage was so prevalent that schools like Somerville High School closed at the mayor’s behest.

    The natural response is, of course, to remove the snow when it accumulates to a level deemed unsafe to the integrity of the roof. However, there are more factors that should be taken into account, including the roof’s angle and material, the type of snow currently resting on the roof, its distribution, etc. One of the biggest threats to the integrity of a roof is when snow accumulates unevenly across a flat roof, putting extra weight in certain places and creating more of a risk for collapse than evenly-distributed accumulation.

    William Mungall Heavy Snow Load Roof Collapse Boston

    An unlucky homeowner woke up to a roof collapsed under heavy snow load.

    To try and avoid this problem of rooftop snow buildup, there are certain measures one can take. Although it might not be possible in certain areas, finding/building a house with a steep-pitch gable roof, especially one designed with a smooth, non-abrasive material, will make it easier for gravity to pull snow off of a roof before it freezes and starts to catch additional snow. An angle of 30˚ or more should do the trick.

    For more tips on guidelines for snow safety, check out FEMA’s Snow Load Safety Guide.


    Dubai’s Dynamic Tower

    William Mungall - Dynamic Tower

    Over the years, Dubai has built a solid reputation for itself in terms of revolutionary urban architecture. Home to the tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa, Dubai is not unfamiliar with unique buildings dominating its illustrious skyline. Tourists and locals alike are now eagerly waiting for the city’s latest endeavor, the Dynamic Tower, a one-of-a-kind architectural marvel.

    The Tower is a staggering 80 storey structure designed to serve as luxury apartments for Dubai’s finest. What sets the Dynamic Tower apart from the rest of the many-storied luxury apartments is that this tower is a rotating skyscraper, the first of its kind. Rotating restaurants have been a global architectural fad for quite some time now, but never before has anyone ventured to apply it on such a mammoth scale.

    Designed by Italian architect, David Fisher, this 420m rotating monolith is expected to cost about 700 million dollars. It was expected to be completed by 2010, but as of now, the tower has not been built yet. Fortunately for Fisher, the delay does not steal much away from the fascination of architectural professionals.

    Attached to a central column, each floor of the building can shift to ensure it has no specific shape. All 80 apartments will be spinning a full 360 degrees (with one to three hours) with the use of 79 power-generating wind turbines between each floor. The building is designed to be energy self-sufficient and apartments come in the price range of 3.7 million dollars yo 36 million dollars (at the rate of 30,000 dollars per square meter).

    Fisher’s company has not sold any apartments yet and are also waiting to secure proper funding for this project, but claims that the skyscraper can be competed in merely 480 days. Meanwhile, Cayan Tower in Dubai Marina remains the city’s and world’s tallest rotating building standing 310m tall with a 90 degree twist.

    The Dynamic Tower promises to reshape the future of architecture, and the with a design so tantalizingly visionary, the architectural world holds it breath in anticipation of this rotating wonder.