Winter Construction and Its Challenges

Most construction companies understand that meticulous planning before the winter months pays hefty dividends when the temperatures drop and the snow begins to fly. Due to budgetary planning and yearly fiscal cycles, this time of year can be peak decision-making time for clients with upcoming construction projects. And while some may think that construction companies hibernate in winter like bears, this is not the case.

Construction management professionals are routinely faced with less-than-perfect weather conditions, and it is up to them to anticipate what challenges and/or additional costs could arise because of the weather, and plan accordingly. The right construction company for your job is one that factors these challenges into the schedules and budgets and communicates these issues with the owner proactively. It is better to plan for the worst, while of course, hoping for the best.

One of the greatest challenges during winter construction is frozen ground. When the ground is frozen, a number of problems can arise: pouring concrete footings poured in cold weather can be limiting, if not, impossible; frozen ground can hinder digging; and melting snow can cause muddy, hazardous construction sites. These limitations can negatively impact your schedule and budget.

Scope, Schedule & Budget

Scope, schedule and budget is the three-legged stool of any construction project. And sometimes, no matter how many proactive measures you take, the only response to weather conditions is patience. If your contracted project is scheduled to begin during the winter months, it’s important to plan a bit of flex-time into your schedule to reduce the impact of the cold weather on the overall project. If the flex-time is not utilized – great! It just means that you’re ahead of schedule. If you do end up using it, then you will continue to remain on schedule. Either way, it’s the construction company’s duty to maintain communications with the team during every step of the process.

Fuel Costs

During the winter months, fuel usage can increase significantly in certain kinds of equipment such as concrete mixers, on-site heaters, etc. These increased costs need to be factored into the overall budget during initial project planning. This helps to limit budgetary surprises down the road and enables owners to make informed decisions regarding schedule and budget. If the costs of winter construction outweigh the needs of the schedule, the project owner and contractor may discuss alternatives to winter construction. However, there are many industries where speed to market is the main driving concern and every minute they are not operational is costing them money. This cost/benefit analysis is different for each individual project.

Get Weathertight Now

If your schedule allows, getting your building weathertight before the cold sets in will provide you with many more options. Subcontractors can be scheduled to do their work inside a weathertight shell even when it’s cold outside. Some of tasks that can be accomplished in a weathertight shell during winter months include:

  • Plumbing—The wintertime is a good time for subcontractors to begin running pipes through the interior walls, ceilings and floors. It’s also a good time for these skilled workers to install sewer lines and vents, as well as water supply lines for fixtures. Toilets, showers and other important units can also be installed.
  • HVAC—Workers can also install ductwork for heating, ventilation and air-conditioning.
  • Insulation—The winter months are perfect for getting inside and applying insulation in the floors, walls and ceilings. Thermal leaks are more obvious in the cold, allowing for more thorough weather-proofing.
  • Electrical—Electricians can install wires and other receptacles for outlets, lights and switches. They can also install wiring for telephones and other electrical equipment.
  • Drywall and interior textures—Safe from the elements, drywall can be hung and taped. The primer coat of paint can also be applied.
  • Interior trim and other fixtures—Contractors can paint walls, install interior doors, baseboards, door casings, window sills, moldings, cabinets and other functional and decorative trim.

Communicating Your “Plan B”

Regardless of your best winter construction intentions, sometimes mother nature will simply not cooperate. At times such as these, the virtues of patience and flexibility come into play. However, this needn’t mean a full stop to activities. There should always be a “Plan B” during the winter construction months and these alternatives need to be planned and communicated early in the planning and construction process. If these considerations are taken into account, your winter months construction project can be possible and profitable.

The team at GBA Builders are experts in planning for winter construction. We look forward to the opportunity to partner on your next project. Our skilled construction managers will use their proactive scheduling to keep your next project on budget, in scope and on schedule, even in the cold winter months.

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