Gas station canopies, a utilitarian architecture, can fail due to wind, snow loads, design, construction and corrosion per Structure Magazine. How many more future failures are on the horizon like this one in Franklinton, NC which I passed after a recent storm? With constant exposure of the supporting structure to the weather, eventual failure is imminent. Owners, new and perspective ones, inspectors, testing and insurance companies need to protect the public’s life, safety and welfare.
Canopies protect customers from the elements by capturing moisture, directing it to the tubular support columns (the downspout), draining down inside them and exiting to a storm drainage system.
According to the North Carolina Department of Insurance the county and local municipalities are responsible to provide visual inspections. Since canopy corrosion is concealed from visual inspections they are ineffective. It requires a ladder and testing equipment not normally within the local inspector’s tools and abilities. The following recommendations should assist local inspectors to enforce their protection of the public’s the life, safety and welfare.
Require permanent, visible labels on each canopy column, similar to an automobile VIN label. They should be located to minimize vandalism such as six feet above walk surface, noted with the legal consequences should it be altered in anyway. The label should include the manufacturer’s name and date of fabrication providing owners and inspectors a permanent record.
New canopies should have accessible hand-hole covers for regular visual inspections like the light pole industry.
Existing canopies should be tested by an independent structural testing company capable of providing a label listing the conditions found and recommendations for future testing. The test should be by the ultrasonic method to determine metal thickness.
Potential buyers of existing canopies should require a professional testing requirement in their purchase agreement. This is the best form of protection should someone desire to purchase an older facility. And have the professional provide an ‘existing label’ as if its current integrity is stable.
Labeling and testing would minimize the manufacturer and seller responsibility, placing it on the owner, the one responsible for monitoring, testing, providing predictive maintenance and remedial repairs.