3 Important Architectural and Construction Considerations for Cold Climates

Architectural design does not happen in a vacuum. When you make a plan to construct a building in an area where it is cold for a significant portion of the year, you have to take into consideration what the weather is going to do to the structure and factor that into your plan. Otherwise, the weather could end up destroying the building that you worked so hard to design and construct, whether suddenly in a cataclysm or gradually due to persistent exposure over time.

1. Possible Snowfall

You need to take into consideration how much snow falls on average in the proposed location and how much is likely to fall at a time. You need to factor in the weight of snow when designing your roof and also what’s going to happen to the meltwater as the solid snow returns to its liquid state. Failure to do so could result in drainage problems and potentially even the roof caving in.

2. Ventilation

It is increasingly standard for new buildings to have efficient windows that do not leak air and for existing buildings to install them. However, while these windows solve some problems, they also raise others. A building needs a system of ventilation to let moisture out while allowing fresh air to circulate back in. Otherwise, you can have troubles with condensation inside the building that can lead to mold growth. When buildings are tighter with more efficient windows, the ventilation that used to come from leaks is no longer there.

That is not to say that you can’t or shouldn’t have efficient windows. It is only to point out that you need some sort of mechanical ventilation system to compensate for the lack of air circulation that results.

3. Air Sealing

Air sealing is different from insulation in that the latter prevents the transfer of heat while the former prevents the passage of air. This is important for the same reason that ventilation is important; to prevent condensation of water vapor carrying by warm indoor air to unheated areas of the house. Even insulation with a high R-rating is generally highly permeable to air. Therefore, it is recommended to install a vapor barrier on the warm side of the wall in addition to the insulation to prevent air passage and condensation inside the wall space.

Cold weather brings with it many potentially damaging forces, including snow, ice, and driving wind. It is crucially important to plan for these when designing and building a new construction.

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