Long span roofs are a common sight in many architectural designs, providing large, open interior spaces without the need for many interior supports.

They are often used in places like sports arenas, warehouses, and exhibition halls. But how do engineers and architects calculate the dimensions and requirements for a long span roof? Let’s break it down in simple terms.

Understanding Long Span Roofs

A long span roof, as the name suggests, spans a considerable distance without the need for many columns or walls underneath for support.

This creates open and flexible spaces suitable for various purposes. These roofs are typically characterized by their ability to cover wide areas, such as the roof of a large gymnasium.

Key Factors in Calculating Long Span Roofs

Calculating a long span roof involves considering several essential factors:

1. Span Length: This is the distance the roof needs to cover without support. It’s a critical factor because it determines the size and strength of the structural elements needed.

2. Roof Pitch: The pitch or slope of the roof affects its ability to shed water and withstand wind loads. The steeper the pitch, the more support it might require.

3. Load-Bearing Capacity: Engineers must calculate the expected loads on the roof, including dead loads (the weight of the roof itself) and live loads (such as snow, wind, or equipment on the roof).

4. Materials: The choice of roofing materials, support beams, and columns is crucial. These materials must be strong enough to support the span length and loads.

Example Calculation

Let’s illustrate this with a simple example:

Imagine you’re designing a long span roof for a sports arena with a span length of 100 feet. You expect a dead load of 10 pounds per square foot (PSF) and a live load of 40 PSF. The roof pitch is 5:12 (meaning it rises 5 units for every 12 units horizontally). You plan to use steel trusses for support.

  1. Calculate Total Load: First, calculate the total load on the roof. For a 100×100 square foot area (your span), this would be 10 PSF (dead load) + 40 PSF (live load) = 50 PSF.
  2. Determine Roof Area: To calculate the area of your sloped roof, you’ll use the Pythagorean theorem: (Span Length)^2 + (Span Width)^2 = (Roof Length)^2. In this case, Roof Length^2 = 100^2 + 5^2 = 10,025, so Roof Length ≈ 100.12 feet.
  3. Calculate Roof Pitch: A 5:12 pitch means for every 12 feet horizontally, the roof rises 5 feet. In your example, the pitch rises 5/12 of 100.12 feet, which is approximately 41.72 feet.
  4. Design Trusses: With the span length, loads, and roof pitch known, you can now design steel trusses that are appropriately sized to support the roof.


Calculating long span roofs is a complex task that requires careful consideration of span length, roof pitch, load-bearing capacity, and materials.

Engineers and architects use these calculations to ensure that structures are safe, functional, and aesthetically pleasing.


As a civil engineer and roofer, I love to share the experience that I have gained through the last couple of years. In the roofing industry, practical experience is a very crucial fact that can help you a lot. Hence, I want to help you with my blog.

Write A Comment