Heavy snow in Scotland has destroyed or damaged 3000 buildings and left farmers facing the danger of asbestos contamination, according to the Scottish Government.
In the worst-affected parts of the Grampian region almost every farm suffered some damage from the heavy snowfall which settled 3ft thick on roofs built to withstand snowfalls of only 1-2ft.
Scottish Agricultural College’s head of buildings design Mike Strachan advised farmers in the worst-hit areas to strengthen replacement buildings and increase the pitch of roofs from 15 to 22.5° to allow snow to slide off.
Mr Strachan added that this winter could mean building designs will have to change for good.
“Over the past two decades buildings have been getting bigger and spans wider but in future we may start looking at replacing these massive structures with two or even three individual structures.
“It might make sense to bring the scale back down.”
He said the massive quantity of damaged asbestos lying around on farms was now his greatest concern.
While the weather remains damp the risk from collapsed structures with broken asbestos cement is minimal but as soon as the material dries the wind can distribute dangerous fibres over a wide area, he said.
He added: “Everyone on the farm will be at risk, children included, and farmers need to be extremely careful when they set about disposing of such a hazardous material.”
The Scottish Government has issued advice on its website, warning farmers that agricultural buildings constructed with corrugated cement sheeting up until 1983 would have Asbestos Containing Materials (ASMs) present within the fibre cement. And even up until 1999 buildings were likely to contain ACMs.
The website advised farmers to prevent entry to damaged buildings until the material can be disposed of in accordance with regulations.