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Steel building design & snow loads in high country environments

With the massive cold fronts that hit New Zealand each Winter, it’s probably a good time to look at the impact that adverse weather conditions & heavy snow loads, can have on steel sheds & buildings. The fact that high tensile steel is a superior building material with multiple benefits has been well established over the years. Designers, in particular, love the qualities of high tensile steel framing & steel wall panel systems, giving them scope to produce any number of steel shed structures to challenge and satisfy clients.



But having said all that, there is the elephant in the room in the form of the weather. Knowing that steel framing & steel wall construction works so well in agricultural & commercial steel buildings, doesn’t remove the possibility that extreme weather has to be treated with respect. Even the best designers using the best construction of the best materials still need to spend time analysing the impact of New Zealand weather conditions. Wasn’t the case with this steel building, which didnt survive a big snow dump in Ohakune back in 2017.




New Zealand has a variety of weather issues in different parts of the country, with the high country being a specific case in point. Steel farm buildings such as dairy sheds, feed sheds, storage sheds, machinery sheds, and general-purpose steel agriculture structures are going to cop some serious amount of strong winds, snow and even blizzards, year in, year out. For that weather reason alone, building in these areas needs careful planning. Consider these 4 points.


  • Building with high tensile steel is a no-brainer.
  • Manufacture of components off-site is essential.
  • Getting specific issues such as roof pitch right can make a huge difference.
  • Engineering large clear-span to erect steel buildings of virtually any size, with maximum efficiency & structural integrity.


When wintery conditions prevail, the beauty of steel comes to the fore. Yes, it’s durable and flexible and has green credentials, but most importantly, the building absolutely has to be designed right to withstand the harshest of climates. With Formsteel manufacturing purpose-designed and built high tensile steel components, you have one part of the equation sorted for your any commercial or agricultural steel building requirements.


The fact that these components are created off-site in waterproof buildings means the job doesn’t suffer from interruptions. And when delivered to the building site, steel frames can be erected in all weather conditions because they are not compromised in wet weather, saving you time and money on the job.




But in much of New Zealand’s high country, snowfalls are as regular as clockwork although there are snowfalls and there are snowfalls. Not all are alike. Of course, using steel for the manufacture of your roof is the ideal choice but wait, the pitch of that roof has to be just right. That’s right, the pitch. The experts in this field talk about the snow load. To calculate this figure, you take into account three things:

  • The type of snow.
  • The weight of snow.
  • The pitch of your roof.


It’s a fact that a rigid-frame steel building with a high pitch is better able to handle snow and ice melt. Wind impact is also lessened according to the shape and angle of your steel roof. Don’t begin without detailed consultation, particularly so if you have little or no building experience. Talk to the experts. No two buildings are the same and no two locations likewise. People with some 50 years’ experience in handling steel buildings in the high country, people like those at Formsteel, are the perfect source for getting the job done right the first time.



The strength and type of steel used in your building are always essential and even so when the location makes your building subject to extreme weather. Cold-formed steel is lightweight, easy to handle, precision-engineered and suitable for these geographical locations. The experts in the construction of steel components and the builders who put them together know which type and the amount of steel to be used, making your building safe for decades and beyond.


The warranties and guarantees of the top suppliers and builders prove their promises giving you peace of mind before, during and after the building are complete. Couple with this, the seismic activity that New Zealand faces elevates the need for maximum strength buildings, so the roofs of earthquake-safe structures must be as light as possible. Many builders prefer profiled steel cladding on light-gauge steel Zed purlins or a double-skin with insulation and spacers.




Agricultural and rural industries dominate the New Zealand market. The need for purpose-designed and built Rural Build steel structures is ongoing. The demand for hay sheds, dairy and machinery sheds, packing sheds, horticultural sheds and more keeps designers, steel manufacturers and builders constantly on the go. The growth of steel-based buildings across New Zealand has never been so strong.


Keeping pace with demand is a real challenge as improvements in steel manufacture, and the design of cold-formed steel products is another crucial part of the building trade. With off-site manufacture, so much attention to detail can be carried before the materials are delivered to the building site. This is especially the case with large clear-span buildings. Our high tensile steel roof truss system is lightweight, quick and easy to use and gives straight roof lines for the life of your building. This attention to detail saves so much time when construction begins. A shorter build time saves the client money and gets them back into business sooner.


Whatever the weather, high tensile galvanised steel is your best guide. At Formsteel we have spent the better part of nearly five decades continuously innovating to find better ways to set the benchmark for steel buildings. Get in touch today for the best possible advice.



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