The JH Greene team recently spoke with an operations manager about his experience with the weather-related risk of beginning a Pennsylvania project mid-winter. A couple necessities come into play: temperature durability, flood resistance, and high wind endurance—in both applications of workers’ safety and building installation. In commercial projects when there are operational timing requirements on the line, delays from the unexpected can present some tough implications. With new legislation protecting builders from making dangerous choices, there is ample protection, but still concerns for safety as risks grow. As I look out the window and snow falls in April, some of these insights can come into good use.
In both extremely cold and hot climates, the thermostat keeping interiors at an opposite temperature than outside can be damaging to building durability if proper insulation isn’t in place. There are many energy efficient HVAC systems that integrate a high level of thermal insulation to spare both energy and costs. In the winter months, snow formations on roofs and ventilation can take a toll on buildings not designed to handle the elements. I’ve heard of structures coined “Russian Sky Domes” designed to withstand extreme weights of snow and ice per meter. For those who battle extreme winter weather, the round shape of these unique buildings can prevent long-term snow laying and lead to more economical heating bills.
Given the climate of a building’s location, there are certain building materials and techniques that work in the favor of a project’s success.
During building design and planning stages in active weather climates, a recognition of high strength/high density material is key. When there is a drop in density, there is a direct reduction in structural capacity. When materials are more porous, there is more room for heat transfer and less temperature regulation. This is appropriate in certain settings with a combination of porous insulation to allow air circulation where needed. Through the use of the proper materials and installation techniques catered to the climate, there is sufficient strength and more fitting heat flow.
When a building is constructed in a special flood hazard area (SFHAs), FEMA (Federal Insurance and Mitigation Administration) has comprehensive flood protection measures that cater to vulnerable regions (and even those not categorized as ‘dangerous’ from a flooding perspective). In these areas, there are materials that are ranked by levels of resistance to floodwater damage. Whether flooring, walls, or ceilings, a good rule of thumb is any material that is absorbent is a no-go in a flooding prone area.
One common denominator between all “indestructible” homes I’ve seen is clear: concrete. More and more homes in areas with high wind events (such as Florida) are integrating standards in their building codes establishing acceptable materials and installation procedures for wind resistance.
Wherever your construction project is located geographically, weather trends are an important consideration to scrutinize when assembling building architecturals.