Rain Loads: Design Guidance in ASCE/SEI 7-2016 and the International Building Code

Rain Loads ASCE SEI 7 2016 International Building Code ICC 2015

A single droplet of rain means no true threat to anyone or anything, and similarly, rainfall, at ordinary intensities, is rarely a cause for immobilizing concern. However, by weighing over 8 pounds per gallon and having a propensity to conglomerate due to its dipolar nature, a substantial accumulation of water can be detrimental to building roofs. For this reason, it is essential to incorporate appropriate provisions for rain loads into building and structure design.

Section 1611 of the 2015 Edition of the International Building Code is focused on rain loads, and it stipulates that each portion of a roof be designed to sustain the load of rainwater that will accumulate on it under certain conditions. The amount of rainfall and water flow influencing these design considerations is to be based on the 100-year hourly rainfall rate of the region, as indicated in Figure 1611.1 from the standard. However, the use of other rainfall rates from approved local weather data is permissible as well.

The accumulation of water caused by the deflection of the roof structure is called ponding, and, as it results in added load, it can lead to roof instability. The key to managing rain loads in buildings is roof drainage, including a primary drainage system and a secondary drainage system, which is set at an elevation higher than the primary system to drain any water that builds up after the lower system is blocked or not working.

Guidance for roof drainage systems can be found in Chapter 8 of ASCE/SEI 7-2016: Minimum Design Loads and Associated Criteria for Buildings and Other Structures. This chapter has a general focus on rain loads, and uses the same 100-year return period for determining the design flow rate, with different frequencies for the secondary and primary drainage systems.

ASCE/SEI 7-2016 is the standard for design considerations for building loads, and it provides minimum loads, hazard levels, associated criteria, and intended performance goals for buildings, other structures, and their nonstructural components. With this wide-reaching scope, the standard covers many different weather- and climate-related loads. This includes not only snow but also the extreme forces of flood and tsunami loads.

The ICC IBC-2015: International Building Code also addresses other loads in its Chapter 16, specifically identifying that users act in accordance with ASCE/SEI 7-2016 for certain specifications and guidelines.

Both ASCE/SEI 7-2016: Minimum Design Loads and Associated Criteria for Buildings and Other Structures and ICC IBC-2015: International Building Code are available on the ANSI Webstore.

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