Huge Snowfall Leads to Wave of Roof Collapses

Washington Snowstorm Lincoln MemorialSo, here in the Washington, DC area we are buried under a couple feet of snow.  You know we have a lot of snow when the Lincoln Memorial steps have been transformed into a good tobogan run.  Unfortunately, so much snow means a ton of dead load placed on roof structures.  There are a number of roof collapses reported around the area.  So far, the major blessing is it appears that none of these events have led to any serious personal injuries.  You can definitely expect that these significant collapse events will trigger equally significant property damage claims, business interruption issues, and perhaps threaten the long-term viability of some businesses.  These events include:

Here is a news report on the Baileys Crossroads roof collapse from WJLA:

With the threat of more snow potentially on the way, the region may not have seen the last of these problems.  Building owners may face some significant hurdles to full recovery, including finding out the limitations of their insurance policies, facing problems with statutes of limitations and/or statutes of repose, and finding that responsible parties are casualties of the current economic crisis and thus are judgment proof.  All of these factors point to a few very important lessons:

  • Know and understand your insurance coverage and its limitations before you have problems
  • When shopping for insurance, evaluate risk and consider not just shopping for the lowest price; you may find that going cheap on insurance ultimately costs you far more
  • Know and understand applicable statutes of limitations and statutes of repose prior to entering into design, construction, or property purchase agreements
  • Factor in the impacts of these time limitation issues when you asses the appropriate levels and types of insurance your purchase
  • Do your homework - conducting detailed inspections prior to purchase and properly evaluating the strength and credentials of your consultants and contractors is an investment of time and money, but it is worth it in the long run rather than face a catastrophic loss in the future

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Comments (4) Read through and enter the discussion with the form at the end
tnrkitect - February 9, 2010 7:20 PM

Add to the list two Safeway grocery stores in Waugh Chapel Center, MD and Edgewater, MD. I am willing to bet the same firm designed the two stores.

Timothy R. Hughes - February 9, 2010 10:44 PM

Thanks for visiting, always glad to see twitter connections visit and even better comment!

I have seen a couple others, but not these two Safeways. I am concerned we will see a lot more with another 1-2' snow load overnight here, pretty ugly. Remarkable that there have not been more injuries, that is a blessing!

tnrkitect - February 10, 2010 6:02 PM

We were discussing the Safeways at the office today. Having one collapse is one thing, but two is different, especially if they are the same size store / same prototype design. As you well know, with prototype stores, the same exact design is used for multiple stores. Only the insurance investigation will tell if it was due to a design defect, construction defect, or if the structure was simply overloaded past the code criteria and code-driven safety factors by the snow. Regardless, I foresee some litigation in the future, and bet that the Contractor and Architect for those stores are sweating right now.

Thanks for the good content!

Timothy R. Hughes - February 11, 2010 3:39 PM

It is a pretty decent bet that litigation will erupt out of some of these. The time limits can often be a real impediment even with a clear code defect though. Let me know if you hear anything!

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