This winter, meteorologists predict one of the strongest El Niños in 50 years, bringing "exceptional storminess,” according to AccuWeather. "The weather pattern threatens
to send chilly air masses into the Eastern U.S., which could result in a corridor of snow."
In anticipation of severe weather, prudent building owners and managers should take steps now to proactively shield buildings from winter’s damaging effects.
The key? A comprehensive annual winterizing program that prepares building envelope components for freezing temperatures, along with appropriate, ongoing
storm management practices.
Tips from design professionals at Hoffmann Architects for simple, cost-effective, and efficient winter planning:
ROOFS: Manage Storm Impact
Inspect for wear or damage, paying particular attention to penetrations.
Repair or replace damaged flashings and open seams.
Check for ponding water on low-slope roofs, a source of leaks and structural
distress. The cause may be as simple as a clogged drain, which is easily
fixed, or it may be more complicated, such as insufficient slope to drains,
Clean and repair gutters and downspouts on steep-slope roofs to prevent ice
dams and replace bent or missing snow guards.
Plan for snow removal where necessary to prevent excessive or unbalanced
loading. Determine where to place the removed snow, and how to clear the
roof without damaging it.
PLAZAS: Remove Snow and Ice
Make repairs so that freeze-thaw cycling and snow removal don’t make
problems worse: check and repair mortar, sealant, and sand joints; replace
broken pavers; fix drainage issues.
Clear out irrigation systems, so that hoses and pipes don’t freeze and burst.
Test subsurface heating elements and make repairs where necessary; if
planning to install new subsurface heating as an alternative to chemical ice
melting, do so well in advance of winter weather.
Select and stock deicing chemicals and determine how these products will
coordinate with mechanical snow removal. Hoffmann Architects’ offers tips for deicing product
selection and use.
PARKING GARAGES: Operate Safely and Continuously
Inspect surface treatments for signs of wear and reapply as needed.
Repair deteriorated concrete, rout and seal small cracks, and replace sealant
at joints where needed.
Choose deicing chemicals early and test products to verify their suitability and
Clear drains and wash decks regularly to prevent deicing chemicals from
accumulating and leading to corrosion, concrete deterioration, and damage to
Plan snow removal from exposed decks and identify where to place the
cleared snow. If moving snow to a single area of the deck, check to be sure
that the structure can accommodate the extra load.
FACADES: Protect and Insulate
Inspect and repair cracks and openings in joints, masonry, sealant, flashings,
and weatherstripping to prevent leaks and drafts. Seal windows and doors.
Avoid impermeable surface sealers and leave weep holes open, to keep from
trapping moisture inside the wall.
Clear and maintain entryways using appropriate deicing chemicals and snow
Investigate condensation on windows, which may mean that the thermal seal
has failed, or that the window is insufficiently insulating. Condensation may
also be a sign that the heating system needs adjustment.
With a modest expenditure of effort toward planning and prevention, building owners
and facility managers can stay a step ahead of the weather and avoid making serious
repairs come spring.
From deicing chemicals to mechanical snow removal to sealers to insulation, a vast
array of winterizing options is available, but not all of them are suitable for all
buildings. Hoffmann Architects can assist in developing a winter strategy that’s right
for the building type, climate, usage, situation, components, and exposure.
For more tips, see Winterizing Your Building in the Hoffmann Architects JOURNAL
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Founded in 1977, Hoffmann Architects specializes in the rehabilitation of the building
envelope. The firm’s work focuses on the exteriors of existing structures, diagnosing
and resolving deterioration within facades, roofing systems, windows, waterproofing
materials, plazas/terraces, parking garages, and historic and landmark structures. We
provide consulting services for new building construction, as well as litigation and
claim support. Our technical professionals investigate and correct damage resulting
from time and weather, substandard or improper construction, design defects,
material failures, poor workmanship, structural movement, and stress.