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CSU Professor Norb Delatte offers an engineer’s perspective on polar vortex

Recent subzero temperatures in Cleveland and across much of the United States generated no shortage of stories about the effects of polar vortex on humans.

But when the media wanted to know what happens to structures and infrastructure under such extreme conditions, they turned to Dr. Norb Delatte, chair of the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department at Cleveland State University’s Washkewicz College of Engineering.

“Unless you somehow have an element … that contracts more than it can handle, it [cold weather] is not likely to hurt buildings, bridges or roads,” Dr. Delatte told cleveland.com.

People weren’t the only ones moaning to protest the harsh winter weather. The big chill also found many houses making creaks, pops and other unusual noises.

“Pretty much all building materials – wood, concrete, steel – expand with heat and contract with cold,” Dr. Delatte explained in a separate interview. “The foundation of a house stays at a more normal temperature where the outside of the house is trying to shrink against it, so whatever connections there are between the foundation and home, they would be making some noise.”

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