Buildings That Withstand Alaska’s Earthquakes, Heavy Winds and Snow Loads

Alaska is prone to several types of natural disasters that devastate entire communities. SteelMaster’s prefabricated steel buildings are designed to withstand some of the most severe weather events.

Handles Heavy Snow Loads

SteelMaster offers several models that are able to protect people and property from heavy snow. Any of our models can accommodate these loads including the A-Model, S-Model, the classic Q-Model and the X-Model which is the most popular for heavy snow. We also offer a C-Model that serves as the best carport in snowy climates.

Two of the most important things to consider when determining if your building is strong enough to handle the heavy snow are the slope and pitch of the roof. SteelMaster’s X Model has a 4:12 pitched roof which makes it easier for heavy snow to slide right off.

Because snowfall varies between each region of Alaska, finding guidance on what the average building needs for a snow load can be complicated. However, our design specialists will help you determine the snow loads for your area. Every SteelMaster building comes with Alaska stamped engineered blueprints that meet loads requirements. Even when a building permit is not required, our buildings are still designed to the latest code. All designs and calculations are stamped by a licensed, professional engineer. They also provide clearly diagramed drawings of your building.

Frozen ground can also present a unique problem in the building process. To fix this, some customers elevate their buildings on platforms to prevent their structures from sinking during warmer months.

In addition to snow, some Alaskans who live near rivers can be impacted by ice jams. Also known as an ice dam, ice jams happen when chunks of ice clump together to block the flow of a river. Often times, ice jams can cause flooding in communities near the river.

SteelMaster’s Quonset Huts are noted for their longevity in coastal environments due to our Galvalume Plus coated panels. This makes our buildings a great option for flood prone areas because the coating protects buildings in highly corrosive environments.

High-Wind Resistant

In many places in Alaska, the wind is worse than snow. Some areas require wind loads of up to 175 miles per hour. SteelMaster’s unique building design is made to handle intense wind pressure.

In addition to Alaska’s local building code requirements, we construct our buildings in accordance with codes determined by the International Building Code and ASCE-7. Both codes ensure that buildings around the country are constructed to meet specific standards.

Unlike metal arched buildings, traditional wood-frame buildings are especially vulnerable to wind loads and can suffer extreme damage. If wind finds its way into a wood-frame building, the pressure could cause the roof to disconnect from the structure, increasing the potential for a collapse. This kind of disaster can be costly and possibly deadly under certain conditions

The design of the Quonset Hut evenly distributes the wind load, transferring the pressure to the bottom of each arch. There is no chance of the roof blowing off because there is no separate roof. Each prefabricated, steel arch is bolted together and overlapped to ensure maximum strength when dangerous winds occur.

Earthquakes

The Alaska Earthquake Center detects an earthquake every 15 minutes, on average. Over the last five years, 150,000 earthquakes have been reported in Alaska. Some of the largest earthquakes recorded worldwide have occurred in state. Back in 1964, a 9.2 magnitude earthquake happened in the Prince William Sound region of Alaska, killing 131 people—119 of which died in the tsunami aftermath. The natural disaster destroyed roads, buildings, entire cities and remote villages. We currently have buildings in Whittier, Alaska that are not only rated to meet this extreme seismic condition, but also withstand a 300 PSF ground snow load.

SteelMaster’s metal prefabricated buildings are strong enough to handle the shaky conditions of an earthquake. Our earthquake-resistant structures follow building codes maintained by the International Code Council (ICC), which have the best guidance on how structures should be designed and constructed to limit seismic risk. Our buildings can be designed to Seismic Design Category E for areas near a major fault with high seismic vulnerability.

A 7.0 magnitude earthquake hit Anchorage on November 30, 2018. The earthquake brought down phone lines, knocked out power and caused devastating damage. However, Jerry and Jana Gooch’s SteelMaster garage in Palmer, Alaska stayed completely intact.

“I’m very pleased with the construction of this earthquake proof building. [There was] not a bit of damage,” Jana said. “Arches not bent or twisted; bolts still intact. Not a single rip or tear on the interior (insulation). The best part, all of my husband’s tools stayed put on the shelving we built inside.”

Jana said she and her husband are building a SteelMaster Quonset Hut home because of the frequent earthquakes that hit Alaska.

The steel arches of Quonset Huts are secured to a sturdy concrete foundation, adding even more strength to the building. During an earthquake, the load is transferred to the foundation through the ceiling and walls. Our steel buildings are constructed as one unit, which evenly distributes the energy caused by seismic waves to its concrete foundation with little chance of damage.

The Quonset Hut’s height and mass add to its ability to stand during an earthquake. A heavier building’s mass will slow down the intensity of the oscillation, lessening the possibility of a collapse. The clear span design of our steel buildings eliminates the potential for weak spots inside. This also means there are fewer areas where the structure can become damaged, which can contribute to a collapse.

Wildfires

Alaska had 17 large actively burning wildfires in 2018, which is a low fire season for the state. Most of the fires are started in the wilderness by lightning, away from communities, life and property. However, one of the best ways to prevent losing everything to fire is to be prepared for the worst.

People who own steel buildings have a significant advantage over those who have traditional buildings due to the engineered fire resistance in a Quonset Hut. The International Building Code recognizes that steel is non-combustible, which means our fire-resistant metal buildings easily meet the codes of every locality across the country.

Steel buildings are considered to be both type 1 and type 2 buildings in fire codes. Type 1 categorizes it as fire resistant and type 2 determines that the structure is non-combustible.

The average house fire burns at about 1,100 degrees Fahrenheit and can spread in a matter of minutes under the right conditions. It takes more than double that amount of heat, 2,500 degrees, for steel to even begin to burn.

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