Role of Building Design in Mitigating Falling Ice & Snow Hazards

Ice and Snow Accumulation on Buildings


Falling ice and snow pose significant hazards during winter months, potentially causing property damage, injuries, and even loss of life. To address this issue, proactive measures need to be taken during the design and construction phases of buildings. In this blog post, we will explore the crucial role of building design in mitigating falling ice and snow hazards, highlighting key considerations and strategies that architects and engineers can employ to enhance safety.

Understanding the Hazards

Before delving into building design solutions, it is essential to understand the hazards associated with falling ice and snow. Accumulated snow on rooftops can melt and form icicles or large chunks of ice that pose a threat to pedestrians and structures below. Additionally, ice dams and snow slides can occur, leading to potential roof damage or collapse. Therefore, incorporating preventive measures into building design becomes imperative.

Key Considerations in Building Design

  1. Roof Design and Pitch: The design and slope of a roof play a vital role in mitigating falling ice and snow hazards. Steeper roof pitches facilitate the shedding of snow, reducing the risk of excessive accumulation. Additionally, incorporating eaves, overhangs, and snow guards can help prevent the formation of dangerous icicles and ice dams.
  2. Drainage Systems: Effective drainage systems are crucial for directing melting snow away from building edges and high-traffic areas. Well-designed gutters, downspouts, and drainage channels can help minimize the accumulation of water and ice on roofs, thereby reducing the potential for falling hazards.
  3. Protective Barriers and Canopies: Installing protective barriers, such as snow fences or snow nets, along the perimeter of buildings can intercept falling snow and ice, preventing them from reaching the ground or pedestrian areas. Canopies and awnings strategically placed near entrances and walkways also provide additional protection.  However, careful consideration must be given to the impact loading of sliding or falling ice and snow on these structures. 
  4. Insulation and Heat Tracing: Proper insulation and heat tracing systems on roofs and gutters can help prevent the formation of ice dams. By maintaining a consistent temperature, these measures facilitate the melting and efficient drainage of snow and ice, minimizing the risk of falling hazards.
  5. Regular Maintenance and Inspection: Building design should account for easy access to roofs for regular maintenance and inspection. This enables timely removal of snow, ice, and icicles, ensuring the ongoing safety of the building and its surroundings.


Falling ice and snow hazards can be effectively mitigated through thoughtful building design. By considering factors such as roof design and pitch, drainage systems, protective barriers, insulation, and regular maintenance, architects and engineers can create safer environments that minimize the risks associated with falling ice and snow. Implementing these strategies not only enhances the safety of occupants and pedestrians but also reduces the potential for property damage and liability.

Designing buildings with the specific aim of addressing falling ice and snow hazards showcases a proactive and responsible approach to winter safety. By integrating these considerations into the design process, we can create structures that are not only aesthetically pleasing but also prioritize the well-being and security of individuals in snowy and icy climates.

Note: The blog post provides an overview of the role of building design in mitigating falling ice and snow hazards. For in-depth information and specific guidelines, we recommend consulting with an experienced Falling Ice and Snow specialist.


  1. Brattebø, H., Lie, B., Nohr, K. I., & Mysen, M. (2016). Snow and ice on roofs: A review of risk factors and management. Cold Regions Science and Technology, 125, 10-26.
  2. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). (2015). Snow Load Safety Guide.
  3. The Society for Protective Coatings. (2018). "Falling Ice and Snow." SSPC PA Guide 18.
  4. Canadian Standards Association. (2007). "Falling Ice and Snow: Risk Management Guideline for Building Owners." CSA B514-06.

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