Addressing Snow and Ice Hazards on Building Facades

Date: January 23, 2019 4:00pm
Location: The Conference Center at One North Wacker
Speaker(s): Sean OBrien
sgh chicago

Wednesday, 23 January 2019

The Conference Center at One North Wacker
1 N. Upper Wacker Drive, 2nd Floor
Chicago, IL 60606  

4:00 - 4:30 p.m.  Registration & Refreshments
4:30 - 6:00 p.m.  Presentation & Discussion
6:00 - 6:30 p.m.  Cocktail Reception

We will also hold a morning session for this seminar.

Participants will earn 1.5 AIA/CES Learning Units (LU/HSW) for their attendance. Attendance is free and open to all; please invite colleagues. We will serve refreshments.



Falling snow and ice from buildings pose serious safety risks for the public, and can place architects, owners, and engineers in a vulnerable position for litigation claims. Complicating matters, there is little consensus in the industry on the best design strategies for mitigating the buildup and shedding of these winter hazards. This presentation will evaluate several mechanisms that enable snow and ice to accumulate on and fall from buildings. Using traditional snow retention designs for roofs as an introduction, we will focus on how snow and ice interact with projecting facade elements, and discuss how contemporary design trends and changes in climate patterns contribute to the problem. We will also review the lack of industry guidance for designing snow and ice retention systems, and discuss strategies for mitigating snow and ice issues on building facades.

After attending this seminar, participants will be able to: 

  • Identify potential risks of falling snow and ice from buildings.
  • Discuss factors that contribute to snow and ice accumulation on facade elements.
  • Understand code requirements and industry standards, or a lack thereof, for addressing snow and ice accumulation on facade elements.
  • Recognize how to mitigate the risk of falling snow and ice in the design of contemporary building facades.


Sean M. O’Brien, P.E., LEED AP | Senior Principal
Sean O’Brien is head of the Building Technology group in Simpson Gumpertz & Heger’s New York City office. He specializes in building science and building envelope performance issues. Sean has investigated and designed repairs for a wide variety of building types and has published papers on topics including moisture migration in masonry wall systems and condensation resistance of windows and curtain walls. He has led research efforts to assess how snow and ice accumulate on building facade projections, and consulted on the design of snow and ice retention and mitigation systems. 


  • Owners
  • Facilities Managers
  • Property Managers
  • Contractors
  • Architects
  • Attorneys