Cold-climate architecture considerations
Building a home in cold climates requires meticulous planning, designing, and special considerations, as cold weather regions usually have their challenges and can affect the work of architects and designers. In fact, freezing temperatures and water from continuous raining can lead to problems related to structural integrity of the building, as well as cause problems to the occupants of the building, from decreased comfort to cold and leakage. This is why architects always have to take different factors into consideration when building in cold climates.
Here are a few building design considerations to keep in mind for buildings located in cold climates:
1- Building Envelope:
A building’s envelope is one of the main factors to consider when building in a cold climate, as it is the envelope that can lead to most problems in buildings. A well-sealed envelope can make the process of heating the building easier, as it would help keep the cold air out during winter. Insulation, for example, is one of the most important elements in a building’s envelope. Its job is to reduce heat loss in cold weather and heat gain in warm weather by providing or creating a barrier between the different areas that are different in temperature. In cold climates, it is also recommended to insulate water pipes to reduce the risk of them freezing and to reduce the amount of energy required to heat water in winter. On the other hand, windows and doors should also be taken into consideration, as high-quality windows and doors that have wood, vinyl, or fiberglass frames can also prevent heat loss.
2- The Roof:
Picking the perfect roof for a building in a cold climate can be tricky, but thankfully, designers have different options to choose from. Because colder climates are often tied to heavy rain and snow, designers have to take into consideration the amount of weight both water and snow can add to the roof and figure out a way to make the roof withstand all the extra weight without collapsing. This is why the best option today is to choose between sloped roofs, gable roofs, or metal roofs for colder climates, as sloped or gable roofs do not accumulate snow, water, or tree leaves, with their shape making it easier to shed snow. Metal roofs, on the other hand, are sturdier than most other roofs and can withstand more pressure and weight without causing any major problems for the occupants. To make these roofs even safer, and to reduce the risk of snow sliding off of them and causing harm to occupants and property, snow stops can be used to keep the snow in place and allow it to melt off instead of falling.
3- Entrances and Exits:
The orientation and protection of entrances and exits in any given building is very important, as it guarantees people’s safety while going in and out of it. For example, providing cover for entrances and exits can make it a lot safer for building occupants, as they do not have to worry about water and snow falling on them from the roof. Adding a covered porch, for example, is one way to provide protection against the snow and, most importantly, the cold. Another important element to consider adding to entrances and exits is railings for stairways, as stairways can become slippery and dangerous when it is raining or snowing, and railings can help people move safely.
4- Snow-Melting System and Radiant Heat:
Snow-melting and radiant heat systems have the ability to create warmth and make buildings more comfortable and livable in colder climates. Snow-melting systems are usually used outside, beneath frequently used paths, to help melt snow faster. This technology can help save time and money spent on shoveling. It can also create safer paths for people going in and out of the building. On the other hand, radiant heat is a heating system that is installed inside buildings. It can be a very efficient source of heat. The most popular and cost-effective radiant heating systems are hydronic systems, which use heated water to spread heat inside the house and keep the indoor space warm.
Be Smart with Your Material Choices
Regardless of where you decide to live or to build your home, it is very important to take into consideration the climate and weather of the area you are going to settle down in, as this will allow you to decide what building design decisions to make that will be relevant and durable for the future. Making the right choices would allow you to avoid challenges that can later on impact the level of comfort, livability of the space, sustainability, and most importantly, structural integrity of the building. This is why you should be smart with your material choices and plan ahead for a better future.