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The importance of industrial roof structural safety reviews

[fa icon="calendar"] May 22, 2015 6:00:00 AM / by Greg Hoyt, PE

greg_dark_backgroundWhile the media may have unnecessarily scared homeowners with the fear of house roof collapses after this year's snowstorms in New England, industrial roof failures can have costly consequences in terms of facility damage, lost production, OSHA violations, and workplace injuries. There are a number of situations that call for safety reviews of the roofs of industrial buildings.

Generally, industrial roofs should be reviewed for safety by a structural engineer every 5 years (on the conservative side), and no less than every 10 years. Providing the engineer with background documents, such as original construction drawings, weights of piping and weights of equipment can be helpful, but is not necessary.

Your structural safety review will provide you with a complete roof evaluation, including inspection of all items of distress, weakness and corrosion, and will follow with a report detailing all areas of concern and recommendations for repairs. 

But in certain situations, it is important to schedule a safety review regardless of the last time your roof was checked out:

1. You plan to change the use of your building

As business situations change, so do your company's facility needs. A building that was once used as a warehouse or storage unit may now be needed as additional manufacturing space. After making changes to the building such as placing new equipment on the roof, adding ventiliation systems and piping hanging below, and others, the weight that the roof will now carry is quite different. It is important to confirm that the roof and existing structure can handle this new weight.

Additionally, the placement of new equipment on the roof can change how your roof will handle a snow load in the winter. In heavy snowstorms and with snow drifting, new equipment can act as a barricade causing snow to pile at unsafe and uneven levels. A structural engineer can review equipment placement and ensure that your structure remains sound  - and safe for your employees.

2. Your building's surroundings change

Similar to changing the use of your own building, changes to the surrounding buildings can affect the safety of your own roof. For example, CCA was part of an insurance investigation of a roof that was showing damage and joist failure. Nothing had changed with their own structure, but an adjacent building's addition created a barrier that caused snow to drift and pile in one area of the roof, causing the failure. This building was not designed to be next to a higher building - and had the roof been reviewed after the building changes, the situation could have been caught before the damage was done.

3. You live in an area experiencing heavy snows

As we saw in early 2015 in New England, mother nature can wreak havoc on roads, businesses and school schedules. During a period of time that includes particularly heavy snowfall, it is important to confirm how much snow is sitting on the roof, what the designed snow load for your building is, and to be sure that there is no unusual or unexpected drifting. 

4. You are seeing signs of damage

If you begin to see any unusual signs of damage, it is important to call a structural engineer as soon as possible to ensure your building is safe for use. These signs can include:

  • Signs of water intrustion
  • Excessive movement of the roof structure

If you are currently in any of these situations, or if it is time for a regular roof safety review, CCA can help. Give us a call and one of our structural engineers will gladly discuss your building situation and schedule a time to review. 

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Topics: Structural Integrity, Engineering, Construction

Greg Hoyt, PE

Written by Greg Hoyt, PE