Student’s Corner

Building an Igloo

In Rochester, winter has finally come to an end.  Spring is in the air, and temperatures will begin to warm up as April turns into May.  

Therefore, it may seem odd to mention igloos at this time of the year.  However, throughout the course of winter, I became interested in the construction and design of igloos.  I thought I could share some of what I’ve learned with you all!  Naturally, personal discretion is advised.  

Igloos are notoriously sustainable, insofar as few resources are needed to construct an igloo, and they act as great insulators.  As long as one has a backyard full of snow, it’s possible to make a fun fort in winter weather – or, if you just want to keep an igloo for aesthetics.   

First, it is important to determine the perimeter of the igloo.  To begin, it’s always good to draw a circle or rough outline in the snow to test how big the igloo is going to be.  Next, the snow being used to build the igloo needs to be relatively dense, such that it packs nicely together and stays together.  That means the snow at the very top of the layer is unlikely to work.

Using available snow, one can mold “blocks.”  These blocks will be laid along the circle, and eventually stacked into a continuous coil.  This is called the “igloo spiral.”  A slight ramp is created as the igloo forms, moving upwards and around into consecutive, increasingly smaller, circumferences.  A small but not insignificant incline will need to be cut between each block.  The blocks will need to be molded smaller as the igloo grows taller.  For extra structure, pack more snow in between the blocks as needed.  

Leave room at the top and side of the igloo for a vent and doorway, respectively.  Having these open spaces makes the igloo safer, and does not compromise its ability to insulate.  As an optional piece, once all the snow has been molded to make the igloo, some water can be used to hose down the structure.  This will add even more strength to the igloo, thereby keeping it standing for a bit longer when the temperature warms up.           

Next winter, my goal is to build an igloo of my own.  While igloos at this latitude rarely last a long time, there is a sense of accomplishment in completing this feat of architecture.   


Written by Dax Emerson, Class of 2021

Photo Credits:  Miguel A. Amutio on Unsplash 

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