Challenges with cold-climate design

Buildings in arctic and subarctic climates face not only challenges related to cold, but also remoteness, limited utilities, permafrost, and extreme temperature shifts. Designers must meet these challenges while keeping occupants comfortable and minimizing impact on the environment.

The newly published Cold-Climate Buildings Design Guide from the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration, and Air-conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) provides information on the issues commonly faced by designers in these climates. The idea for the guide came from a working session at the 2012 International Cold-climate Design Conference.

“Harmonizing human comfort with the climatic realities of these environments is a balancing act,” Erich Binder, who oversaw the writing of the guide, said. “Strategic design is key to building, commissioning, and operating efficient and long-lasting cold-climate structures.”

The manual covers the design impacts from non-mechanical components of a facility such as the building envelope and roof construction. For instance, snow and ice sliding down of a metal roof can shear off mechanical roof penetrations, as well as hoods on the exterior wall below. It also explores how windblown snow takes on a consistency similar to sand and requires special design techniques to keep it from getting into the HVAC intakes. Other focuses include efficiency of envelopes, maintenance accessibility needs, and ensuring durability of piping systems.

In addition to cold-climate considerations in HVAC calculations and system design, chapters cover sustainability, controls, building design, and commissioning. The book also includes an appendix with seven case studies of buildings located in cold and extreme cold climates.

To order, visit

Leave a Comment


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *