Winter Weather Considerations in Architecture
Updated: May 12, 2022
Workin' in a Winter Wonderland
As the second freeze in the DFW metroplex sets in and the MEL/ARCH team retreats to our individual homes to work from home for a couple of days, I can’t help but think of the relationship between winter weather and architecture. Though this weather is fairly uncommon for DFW, in the past two years we’ve seen our surroundings blanketed in snow and ice for longer than most would have imagined. The question popping into my head today is – “How does this winter weather impact architecture?”
As designers thinking about the impacts of winter weather, our initial thought is of course thermal comfort, ensuring our buildings keep the cold out and the heat in. This is a consideration and impact that is taken early on in the design process, defining the makeup of the building envelope and the insulation that will ensure it works properly to keep the users comfortable. If the building envelope is well insulated enough, the space within can be kept comfortable without heating or cooling. The power outages of the 2021 Winter Storm in Texas are a perfect example of the importance of this, as relying on the power grid to keep your home warm is a variable beyond one’s control. As our climate continues to change and abnormal weather patterns occur, sustainability and forward-thinking design are the only ways to address these impacts and arising issues.
Winter weather can also visually have a major transformative impact to architecture, seemingly erasing the surrounding context when blanketed with thick layers of snow or ice. The winter storm that rolled through Texas earlier this February brought thick inches of snow and ice, leaving our concrete roads looking bright white. The materials on the roofs of homes in residential neighborhoods were often indistinguishable, as the snow concealed the asphalt shingles and standing seam roofs alike. The contrast between sidewalk, grass, and roadway during this kind of weather is virtually nonexistent, leaving a white patch between buildings. It is almost as if nature is concealing the urban design and planning of the built environment for a short time.
These winter storms in DFW are unique experiences, creating uncommon working situations and long-lasting memories. At MEL/ARCH we look to them as ones to grow and learn from, with the intention of creating buildings that can protect us and withstand these unique conditions. I hope everyone in the DFW Metroplex, and all over, stays warm and safe!
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