In upstate New York State, where big snows are a given, this designer has decided to make it an asset rather than a liability.
In upstate New York State, where big snows are a given, this designer has decided to make it an asset rather than a liability.


Ice Cycle House questions conventional thought about how to handle snow loads and melt. While most home designers in snowy climates work hard to get snow off roofs, Matt Burgermaster of MABU Design created his Ice Cycle House to hold onto thick blankets of snow for insulation. Then, when the inevitable occurs, the design allows it to melt in style, dripping down through a wall of copper pipes that reach from the gutter to the ground on one side of the house. “One of the inspirations for the house was an igloo,” says Burgermaster. “In extreme climates, why can’t we look at a way to keep snow on the roof to retain it as a thermal blanket?”

Burgermaster’s design, which is in the concept stage, calls for a reinforced integrated roof drainage system rather than relying on gutters that attach to the eaves. The gutter will be made of a single sheet of sheet metal that runs the entire length of the eve.

The system eliminates water dams freezing in place because it offers plenty of drainage through 40 4-inch-diameter copper drain pipes that will run from roof to ground on one side of the home, says Burgermaster. The copper pipes will be painted white on the outside, but sliced at an angle in places to reveal glimpses of the pipe inside, where rain would stain the copper inside verdigris over time.

“Let’s solve a functional problem and make it into a design element,” Burgermaster says.