O’Rourke Heads to Netherlands To Assist Europeans With Building Code
The February 2010 snowstorm in our nation’s capital resulted in the structural collapse of a large-span aircraft hangar at Dulles International Airport. Although no one was injured, a number of expensive private jets were damaged in the collapse. Unfortunately, that was not the case in an exhibition hall collapse almost exactly four years earlier in Katowice, Poland. In that collapse, 67 people were killed and more than double that number were injured.
One of the most important ways structural engineers protect people and property from snow-related collapse is via well-crafted building codes and load standards. Michael O’Rourke, professor of civil and environmental engineering, says that the trick is to properly balance risk and cost. He chairs the American Society of Civil Engineers committee charged with developing snow load provisions for the nation’s building codes.
This month, O’Rourke is traveling to Delft in the Netherlands for a meeting of the International Standards Organization (ISO) snow loads group. The building codes in Europe, the Euro codes, get their load information from ISO. O’Rourke has been working with Thomas Thiis of Norway’s University of Life Sciences on proposed changes to the snow drift loads in ISO. Snow drift loads are considered particularly important since, at least in the United States, they account for approximately 75 percent of all snow-related building collapses.