Spenard Builders Supply’s shipping center was destroyed by a roof collapse

By | December 21, 2023

Dec 21 – A large commercial building in Spenard was destroyed by a collapsing roof on Wednesday evening, a month after council officials warned of potentially disastrous loads due to what is already a record snow season.

The collapse occurred just before 11 p.m. at the Spenard Builders Supply dispatch center on West 46th Avenue, according to Anchorage Fire Department spokesperson and Deputy Chief Alex Boyd. A fire alarm was the first warning, followed by numerous calls reporting the collapse, which sent debris flying into surrounding streets but caused no additional damage, Boyd said.

He said no one was in the building at the time. The dispatch center was housed in what was once the SBS truss factory, located on the northeast corner of West 46th and Taft Street, a few blocks from the Tudor Road-Minnesota Drive intersection.

The collapse is at least the third time in less than three years that the roof of an SBS building has collapsed.

Representatives of Spenard Builders Supply said Thursday they are taking steps to determine the cause of the latest collapse.

The company is taking action to implement preventive measures to prevent future roof problems, according to an email from Carter Reves, general manager at Spenard Builders in Anchorage.

“Spenard Builders Supply and parent company Builders FirstSource are working to minimize any disruptions to operations and services to our customers, and we do not anticipate any significant disruptions at this time as our mall remains open,” the statement said.

According to its website, the company operates 10 lumber and retail locations in Alaska. It operates four manufacturing centers, including truss factories in Eklutna and Kenai.

Ross Noffsinger, Anchorage’s acting building official, said city officials will investigate this week’s collapse and the building’s construction to try to determine what caused the failure.

“In this case, this roof failed quite early in the season,” Noffsinger said.

The SBS building is the same type that Anchorage officials have warned is at high risk of failure due to current snow loads: a parallel chord structure and a flat roof built in the 1980s, Boyd said.

According to the fire brigade, the building is 275 to 90 meters long and 30 meters wide.

Fourteen fire units responded, along with Anchorage police, city street department officials and representatives from Chugach Electric, Anchorage Water and Wastewater Utility and Enstar, Boyd said. Along with the collapse, emergency responders were contending with broken water pipes that dumped up to a foot of water into adjacent streets, he said.

By Thursday morning, first responders had left the scene. Several employees walked the perimeter and inspected the wreckage. Inside, an emergency light flashed and the alarm went off repeatedly. The force of the collapse threw wooden planks and insulation into neighboring houses.

Anchorage has seen record snowfall so far this season, with back-to-back November storms dropping several feet at once, followed by an early December storm that threw the accumulation into disarray. That was followed by higher temperatures, which can melt snow on roofs into ice dams that put more pressure on structures.

Last year there was also more snow than normal on buildings; at least 16 roofs were damaged in partial or complete failures. A woman was killed and two others were trapped in February when the roof of a South Anchorage gym collapsed.

A Spenard Builders Supply building in Soldotna collapsed in December 2022 after a series of storms dumped heavy snow on the Kenai Peninsula. According to local news reports at the time, the company’s Fairbanks store temporarily closed after part of the roof buckled in March 2021.

Noffsinger said snow loads in Anchorage are now between 20 and 25 pounds per square foot — about the same as levels last winter when roofs collapsed.

Many of the collapses occurred in the spring, following heavy snowfall in December 2022, which created significant pressure over a period of months.

This year’s record levels of snow, which started in November, create the possibility of another long winter with unusual loads on roofs, Noffsinger said.

“Time is important,” he said.

Noffsinger said the previous roof issues involving Spenard Builders Supply buildings occurred outside the municipality’s jurisdiction, so officials currently have no details about those events. But he said they will try to learn more about the cause of the failure in those situations as well.

The anchor code generally requires buildings to support a minimum of 40 pounds per square foot.

Municipal building authorities issued new guidelines last month urging property owners, especially those who own older buildings with flat roofs, to remove snow, especially from commercial buildings built before 1990 with certain designs of wooden trusses that cover wide roofs. to support.

“We will echo what the building department folks have said,” Boyd said Thursday morning, advising owners of older buildings or those responsible for building safety to “keep a close eye” for signs of problems and be aware that melting and wind could cause. making accumulation seem less important than it is.

“They may not be able to sustain the snow loads that we’re currently looking at because they just don’t meet what’s expected of the structural code now,” he said.

Scott Hamel, chairman of the Civil Engineering Department at the University of Alaska Anchorage, said most homeowners don’t have to worry about snow loads on their roofs at this time.

Hamel said the city is still well below last winter’s maximum snow load of 35 pounds per square meter. And homes typically don’t have the enormous roof spans of commercial buildings, a relative safety factor.

He said flat-roof homes with drainage problems that could cause excessive snow loads in some areas, or with the problematic designs of parallel chords with undersized metal plates connecting beams, could benefit from an inspection.

“If you have good drainage, you don’t have to worry too much,” Hamel said.

Anchorage Daily News reporter Tess Williams contributed.

Leave a Reply

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