Up on the roof
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Up on the roof

  • 03 January 2014
  • Door: Herman Bessels

Every ski season, between 100 and 200 gipsvluchten (which literally means ‘plaster-cast flights’) land in The Netherlands from Innsbruck bringing injured winter holidaymakers back home. For those passengers, an accident in the snow can mean around six weeks of hassle and discomfort. Inconvenient for sure, but not catastrophic.

Problems of an entirely different magnitude will result from extreme snowfall in The Netherlands. That might be hard to imagine after the mild winter we’ve just had, but last winter was a different story, remember? In the future, this country will face problems due to snow accumulation…mark my words.

‘Dutch snow is heavier than Austrian snow’

The problem will be greatest in transitions from high-rise to low-rise buildings, where considerable volumes of snow can accumulate in sheltered areas. Dutch snow is heavier than Austrian snow. That might sound strange, but it’s true! Austrian snow is dry, fine and powdery, while snow in The Netherlands tends to fall in larger flakes that hold more moisture and settle by ‘sticking’. Whereas rainwater drains away, snow does not. In effect, snow is just a considerable amount of rain that remains in one place, and blocks the drains for good measure (like cotton wool soaked in water).

One of my customers told me about his building which, after yet another snow shower during last year’s harsh winter, began to creak loudly. If they hadn’t started to shovel the snow away immediately, the roof would have definitely collapsed. A few days later, the local council fined him for breaching health & safety regulations: “Gentlemen, you were not wearing safety harnesses.”

On top of it all, the oceans’ temperatures are rising, with more intense rainfall as a result. Just imagine heavy precipitation in combination with a cold front: that really spells trouble.

We’ve seen on the news how Ireland has almost been blown away, England has flooded and southern Austria has struggled to cope with two metres of snowfall in just four days. To avoid our buildings suffering the extreme consequences of climate change in the months and years ahead, we can better take action – and quickly.


Source: Bessels