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Estimation of Loads

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3.6 Snow Loads (NBC Cl. 4.1.6)

• See also NBC 2010 Structural Commentary G, and Appendix C of the NBCC

2010

3.6.1 General Description

A structure must be designed to support the greatest weight of snow that is likely

to accumulate on it during its design life. Of course, this amount varies greatly with geographic location, and depends not only on the annual snowfall, but also on such factors as the shape of the structure, the exposure to wind, and proximity to other structures. The NBCC 2010 takes these factors into account and provides designers with a clear procedure to estimate design loads for snow.

Ground Snow Loads

The measured depth of snow on the ground is the basis for the calculation of snow loads in the NBCC 2010. The annual maximum depth of snow has been measured at over 1600 locations in Canada, and the maximum annual values are

used to predict the depth which has an annual probability of exceedence of 1-in-50. Appendix C of NBCC 2010 (“Climatic and Seismic Information for Building Design in Canada”) lists ground snow loads at numerous locations across Canada, determined by the following procedure:

• The 1-in-50 year snow depth is estimated for a given location.

• An appropriate snow density is selected for that location.

• The product of the snow depth and snow density gives the maximum expected ground snow load.

In addition to this maximum snow load, the possibility of an increased load due to

rainfall occurring when snow is present must also be taken into account. This allowance is based on the maximum 1-in-50 year rainfall over a 24 hour period that is likely to occur during the three month period when the snow loads are at their maximum value.

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Snow Loads on Roofs

The snow load on the roof a structure differs from the ground snow load due to:

due to wind,

as a result of thermal losses through the roof, and

of the snow on sloping roofs.

These factors generally lead to a lower average snow load on a roof relative to the ground snow load. However, they can also lead to very high snow loads in specific locations, particularly due to drifting and redistribution due to wind.

Drifting and Redistribution Due to Wind:

Erosion and deposition of snow by the wind is strongly influenced by the presence of turbulent eddies in the windstream. Any obstructions that alter the path of flow or generate turbulent eddies will influence snow deposition patterns. In general, snow redistribution is governed by the following principles:

• Snow is eroded in regions of accelerated airflow and deposited in stagnant regions.

• Once in the airstream, snow is transported nearly horizontally near the ground or the roof surface from where it was picked up until it is deposited. Therefore, snow tends to drift to areas of equal or lower elevation but not upwards. As a result, the amount of snow available for drifting on any roof level is restricted to the snow that was originally on that level or on roofs at a higher level.

Substantial snow drifts can build up in the following locations:

• Around

such as parapet walls and fences (in this

case, the height of the drift is limited to the height of the obstruction)

• On

• In

adjacent to taller buildings or building sections

formed by sawtooth or multiple folded plate roofs

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Several typical snow deposition patterns are illustrated below.

(a) Snow redistribution around a parapet wall A A Clear of Snow B B Snow
(a) Snow redistribution around a parapet wall
A
A Clear of
Snow
B
B
Snow
Wind
Elevation
Contours

Plan View of Roof

(b) Snow deposition around a solid fence

Wake - Deposition Section A-A
Wake -
Deposition
Section A-A
Acceleration - Erosion Section B-B
Acceleration -
Erosion
Section B-B
solid fence Wake - Deposition Section A-A Acceleration - Erosion Section B-B CE 321.3 Structural Systems

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(c)

(d)

Snow drifting from an adjacent roof

Level Drift Surcharge Lower Roof Load Level
Level
Drift Surcharge
Lower Roof
Load
Level

Upper Roof

Flat Roof Load

Roofs with a slope of 10 percent or greater periodically tend to shed part or all

of their snow load as a result of sliding. Lower roof surfaces adjacent to sloping roofs must be designed for the surcharge of snow load caused by the sliding.

on parapet walls

Sliding snow can also exert a and other vertical surfaces.

public can produce dangerous conditions and should be avoided or the effects

Sloping roofs adjacent to areas accessible to the

mitigated.

Snow deposition in roof valleys

s adjacent to areas accessible to the mitigated. Snow deposition in roof valleys CE 321.3 Structural

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(e) Unbalanced snow loads on hip or arched roofs

3-19 (e) Unbalanced snow loads on hip or arched roofs Gable roof Arch roof Large unbalanced

Gable roof

(e) Unbalanced snow loads on hip or arched roofs Gable roof Arch roof Large unbalanced loads
(e) Unbalanced snow loads on hip or arched roofs Gable roof Arch roof Large unbalanced loads
(e) Unbalanced snow loads on hip or arched roofs Gable roof Arch roof Large unbalanced loads

Arch roof

Large unbalanced loads can result from the deposition of snow on the leeward side of gable or arched roofs. These unbalanced loads (shown above) can be critical, particularly for arches and arched trusses.

Snow Density:

Although the density of snow varies considerably, the following values are commonly used for design purposes:

i) Freshly Fallen Snow:

ii) Mature Ground Snow:

Range

• Typical Value

Range

= 0.5

= 1.0 kN/m 3

= 1.0 to 4.0 kN/m 3

to 1.2 kN/m 3

 

• Typical Value

= 2.0 kN/m 3

iii) Snow on Roof:

• Range

= 1.0

to 5.0 kN/m 3

Typical Value

= 2.5

to 3.0 kN/m 3

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3.6.2 Snow Load Provisions in NBCC 2010 (Cl. 4.1.6)

The specified snow load, S, acting on a roof or other surface is calculated by the

following formula:

S I

s

S

s

C C C C

b

w

s

a

S

r

where:

I s

=

Importance factor for snow load

S s =

Ground snow load

[kPa]

S r =

Associated rain load

[kPa]

C b =

Basic snow load factor

C w =

Wind exposure factor

=

1.0

in sheltered locations

=

0.75

in exposed locations

=

0.5

in exposed areas north of the tree line

C s =

Slope factor

 

C a =

Shape factor

Ground Snow Load:

S s

• 1-in-50 year ground snow load for the specified location

• Given in Table C-2, Design Data, Appendix C, NBCC 2010

Associated Rain Load:

S r

• The 1-in-50 year 24 hr. rainfall likely to occur simultaneously with the design

snow load (should not be confused with the design load for rain only, which is a

separate load case)

• Given in Design Data table, Appendix C, NBCC 2010

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Importance Factor for Snow Load:

I s

• The importance factor for snow loads is as follows:

Importance Category

Importance Category

Low

Normal

High

Post-disaster

Importance Factor, I s

Importance Factor, I s

ULS

0.8

1.0

1.15

1.25

SLS

0.9

0.9

0.9

0.9

• Increasing the importance factor for buildings classified in higher importance

categories when considering ultimate limit states (ULS) essentially increases the

return period for the design snow storm. That is, while buildings in the normal

importance category are designed for the 1-in-50 year snow storm, the use of a

higher importance factor for post-disaster buildings means that they are

designed for the 1-in-100 year snow storm, effectively reducing the probability of

failure for these buildings.

• Decreasing the importance factor for buildings in the low importance category

and for serviceability limit states (SLS) essentially decreases the return period of

the design snow storm used for these cases. This is acceptable because the

consequences of failure are considered to be less severe than for “more

important” buildings at the ultimate limit state.

• For serviceability limit states, the importance factor of 0.9 adjusts the return

period to 30 years (i.e. 1-in-30 year snow storm)

Basic Snow Load Factor:

C b

• Accounts for the fact that snow loads on roofs tend to be lower than those on

the ground due to wind erosion, etc. Unless the roof is considered “large” (as

defined below), a value of 0.8 is assigned to C b . This value is based on a

national survey which compared roof and ground snow loads.

• On larger flat roofs, the wind may not be as effective in eroding the snow due to

the large volumes involved. Therefore, the roof snow load may be greater than

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80% of the basic ground snow load (as is implied by

this possibility, C b is increased for large roofs as described below.

C 0.8

b

).

To account for

• A roof is considered “large” when its characteristic length, l c , exceeds 70 m

When

When

l

l

c

c

l

c

w

l

=

2w - ( w 2 / l )

[m]

=

Smaller plan dimension of roof

[m]

=

Larger plan dimension of roof

[m]

70 m, and C w = 1.0:

C

b

1.0

30 l  2 c
30
l
 2
c

200 m, and C w = 0.75 or 0.50:

C

b

1.3

 140 l  2 c
140
l
 2
c

• For very large flat roofs, these expressions result in a value of

implying that the roof snow load is equal to the ground snow load 1 .

C C 1.0

b

w

,

• For square roofs, the characteristic roof length

l

c

is simply equal to the length of

one

side

of

the roof

(l

w

c  

l

).

For rectangular roofs,

l

lies somewhere

c

between the shorter roof dimension w and the longer dimension l. Since

if one side of a rectangular roof is much larger than the other (lw ),

l

c 2

w

the characteristic length

l

c

will only be large if both dimensions (w and l) are

large. This reflects the fact that snow can be effectively removed from the roof by wind blowing perpendicular to the shorter roof dimension.

1 Irwin, P.A., Gamble, S.L., and Taylor, D.A. (1995). Effects of roof size, heat transfer, and climate on roof loads: Studies for the 1995 NBC. Canadian Journal of Civil Engineering, Vol. 22, No. 4, pp. 770-784.

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Wind Exposure Factor:

C w

• If a roof area is not shielded from the wind by any significant obstructions, the

amount of snow on the roof will be reduced by the erosion action of the wind.

• In order to use a value for C w that is less than 1.0 (i.e. 0.75 or 0.5 north of the

treeline), the following conditions must be met:

i) A building must be in the

ii) The building site must be

Importance Categories.

, exposing the building to wind

from all directions, and remain so during its design life.

Open terrain:

• level terrain

• only scattered buildings, trees, or other obstructions

• open water or shorelines along open water

iii) There must be no

on the roof within a distance equal to 10 times the difference between the

height of the obstruction and the design depth of snow from the area of the

roof that is being designed.

(Note: The basic [no drifts] design depth of snow is

= density of snow 3.0 kN/m 3 )

d

B

C C S

b

w

s

;

CC S b ws  B
CC S
b
ws
B

d

where

iv) The load case considered does not involve the

of

snow from adjacent surfaces, such as cases involving unbalanced snow

loads on gable and arch roofs.

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Roof Slope Factor:

C s

• The loss of snow due to sliding combined with more efficient drainage of melting snow and rain tends to reduce the snow load on steep roofs as compared to that on flatter roofs. The effects of roof slope are incorporated using the slope factor, C s .

• The value of C s depends on the angle of the roof slope, , and is given in NBCC 2010 Clause 4.1.6.2, sentences (5), (6), and (7):

i) Non-Slippery Roofing Systems: (shingles, tiles, etc.)

C 1.0

s

for

30

C 0.0

s

for

70

70  40

C

s

 70  •   70     40  C s for

for 30  70

ii) Slippery Unobstructed Roofing Systems: (glass, metal, etc.)

C 1.0

s

for

15

C 0.0

s

for

60

60  45

C

s

 60  •   60     45  C s for

for 15  60

• A value of

C 1.0

s

should be used for snow accumulations in roof valleys and

for accumulations due to snow sliding from adjacent roofs.

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Shape Factor:

C a

• The shape factor takes into account possible drifting and redistribution of snow

of the roof

due to wind action. The factor depends on the

and the presence of any nearby

.

• Where appropriate for the shape of the roof, other values for C a should be

assigned to account for such factors as:

snow loads on gable, arched or curved roofs and domes

increased snow loads in

 

from adjacent or nearly adjacent higher level roofs

 

(i.e. within 5 m of the roof being considered)

 

increased non-uniform snow loads on areas adjacent to roof projections (e.g.

equipment, chimneys)

 

increased snow or ice loads due to snow sliding or drainage of melt water from

adjacent roofs

Suggested shape factors for non-flat roof profiles are provided in Structural

Commentary G:

• Gable, flat, and shed roofs -

Fig. G-1

• Simple arches or curved roofs -

Figs. G-2 & G3

• Increased snow loads in roof valleys -

Fig. G-4

• Lower levels of adjacent or nearly adjacent roofs -

Fig. G-5

• Lower roofs adjacent to sloping upper roof -

Fig. G-7

• Areas adjacent to roof obstructions -

Fig. G-8

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Use of Figures in Commentary G:

At first glance, the calculations shown in the figures in Commentary G appear very complicated or even without logical basis. However, further investigation shows that the procedures are very logical and are based on the consideration of the depths of snow likely to accumulate on roofs of different shapes.

• Drift loads on lower level roofs adjacent to higher levels (Fig. G-5):

As an example of how the figures are applied, consider Fig. G-5, used to calculate the drift load on a lower level roof adjacent to a higher level roof on the same or nearby building.

Underlying assumptions:

• Drift load is controlled by

i)

between the lower and upper levels from the upper level

ii)

iii)

the presence of

on the upper level, which serve

to trap snow on the upper level and reduce drift loads on the lower level

• The drift is triangular in shape and has a slope of 1:5 (vertical:horizontal)

• A drift will not form if

i) the distance, a, between adjacent buildings is greater than

ii) the difference in height, h, between roof levels is less than

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