Avoid Building Collapse, Consider Insurance

LeeAnne Bulman, AgriView

GILMANTON, Wis. – Excessive snow and blowing wind create a nasty combination – a danger that caused a record number of farm buildings to collapse this past winter. Weather events can’t be controlled so farmers need to do what they can to prevent damage.

That starts with building design, says Aaron Halberg, resident professional engineer at Halberg Engineering.

“We should avoid all possible loss,” he said at a presentation sponsored by University of Wisconsin-Extension in Buffalo County

Carl Duley, UW-extension agent, said collapsed buildings aren’t a new issue but buildings are becoming bigger, which puts more stress on construction materials. This past winter collapsed buildings in west-central Wisconsin had more than $12 million in damage. That included poultry sheds, machine sheds, livestock barns and grain bins that ranged from one to 50 years old. Damaged buildings continued to drop throughout the spring.

Once snow piles up, wind can change the depth and density of snow on a roof. Rain on the snow can increase the weight by 5 pounds per square foot for every inch. Ice dams can form along the edge, holding snow back from sliding off the roof. Something as small as screw heads showing through a roof is enough to hold snow on a roof.

Wisconsin has no binding building code for post-frame buildings, although standards do exist. Halberg referred to ASCE 7, a minimum-design load, as a source for building design – with the caveat that codes are a minimum. A project may need greater design loads. Factors such as building use, the presence of animals or humans, and siting need to be considered

Halberg recommends dealing with people who have been in the business for a while – those with a good design reputation and warranty on the work. He warns that the cheapest building might be just that – cheap.

“When I see a collapse, it’s usually one or two details that were missed,” he said.

Duley gave an example.

”Steel isn’t steel isn’t steel,” he said.

If a builder downgrades the steel, connectors can rust. That results in less building integrity.

Design should start with load considerations, Halberg said, and then trusses, trusses to posts, overall connection and bracing. Every link in the chain is important. Designers should consider what happens when doors are open or closed as well as extra dead weight such as solar panels or insulation.

 

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