5 Ways to Stop Weather From Freezing Your Project’s Schedule
While a winter weather delay may be every child’s dream come true, they’re every project manager’s worst nightmare for its potential to create significant delays in construction. For many of us, winter weather is coming, and for some locations around the world, it’s already here with the power to seriously freeze a jobsite’s progress. From ice, snow and regular rain to plain frigid temperatures, winter weather can not only dampen your life but your project.
Beyond winter weather, construction professionals need to be cautious of extreme and unexpected weather year round. In 2017 alone, the world has witnessed firsthand the relentless power of Mother Nature in the form of severe storms and hurricanes in Dallas and the Caribbean—and it’s clear extreme weather events aren’t going away anytime soon. Whether it’s high winds, boiling temperature, dense fog or electrical storms, each season and region is unique in weather patterns and construction professionals need to take action in the calm before the storm to sufficiently prepare jobsites.
Of course, normal and seasonal weather can be expected and planned for, but many projects don’t even have adequate inclement weather plans, slowing down schedules as a result. In fact, according to one study, severe weather reduce productivity on a jobsite on average by 7 percent. As construction companies, that large of a drop in productivity in just one project has the potential to create huge cost overruns and delays.
So, knowing that productivity can be negatively influenced by weather all year round, how do you plan for both normal inclement weather and the unexpected? You’ll need to do more than just check your local weather report. More diligence in the planning phase and extensive safety precautions will help reduce the risk of bad weather washing out your project.
Below, we highlight five ways you can “insulate” your project from significant delays in construction due to poor weather. You can also read and download our cheatsheet below for a quick reference on how to protect your staff and site from unexpected conditions.
Smart Scheduling in the Pre-construction Planning Phase
Although you can’t predict when the next superstorm might hit your city, you can certainly plan for adverse or normal seasonal weather events that could negatively affect the productivity of your project. Planning for adverse weather patterns starts in the pre-construction planning phase to ensure schedules have been appropriately set. First, look to historical weather data in your region to understand the normal weather patterns that could impact your project. With this data in mind, start planning key activities that are weather dependent in safer seasons. For instance, if you know that historically in January through February the average daily weather temperatures of your metro area is below the recommended 50° Fahrenheit to pour concrete, you may want to schedule this part of your project for warmer months.
Cutting-edge technology can also provide guidance on how to schedule your project with potential weather implications. If you have the budget and your project is particularly high risk to begin with, predictive modeling could be a good investment to determine how an extreme condition might affect various elements of your project. Perfect prediction through simulation is not possible, but at the very least, you can assess your schedule to prepare for worst case scenarios.
When it comes to weather, always be over cautious in scheduling rather than ambitious in trying to fit activities in. With a deep understanding of the adverse weather conditions in your project’s location, you can add buffer time to your schedule and reduce the chances of hitting weather delays in construction that impact your project’s performance.
Budget with Weather in Mind
In addition to padding your construction project schedule for unexpected weather, be mindful of your budget too. Certain activities affected by weather will simply just cost more money. Examples include accounting for more fuel for vehicles in the winter, additional water for staff in the summer and water protectant materials for equipment during rainy seasons. Creating budget estimates that are weather inclusive before the project begins, instead of scrambling to find room in the budget once construction starts, will minimize potential overruns and delays in construction.
Weather can also impact the availability of your staff, so budget appropriately. In construction, staff turnover is notoriously higher in the winter and colder months. According to American Progress, 16-20% of an individual’s base salary is the average cost of a turnover, so factor in extra hiring budget if you have large teams during colder months. Correspondingly, if you know for instance that your project’s region will have severe rains in the spring or extremely low temperatures in the winter, you might want to double down efforts in the summer and fall. Oftentimes, amping up work in safer seasons is great for productivity, but it still requires more seasonal hires and you should balance your project budget to accommodate.
Budgeting for weather activities and potential staff turnover reduces the risk of your project running out of money, and in turn delaying your project.
Weatherproof Your Site
Besides from adding more cushion to your schedule and budget, plan to also weather-proof your project or certain areas of a job site before seasonal work begins. In particular, equipment and materials will be most impacted by the weather, so plan to take precautions and measures to ensure it won’t delay your schedule.
Even the smallest changes in temperature can impact the wide-range of tools, machinery and materials on a construction job. For example, masonry kits can freeze in the winter and need to be thawed and dried before using, adding significant prep time daily. On the other hand, extremely dry and hot weather can affect building supplies such as bricks, so you’ll need to plan for cool storage areas in warmer months. You’re already investing significant funds into resources and materials for your site—so spend the extra time to invest in, research and protect your site to create optimal conditions for all of your supplies. Without proper protection, you risk damaging or wasting valuable materials, causing cost overruns and additional delays in construction in order to procure again.
By accounting for all your equipment and materials ahead of time, and with knowledge of how various weather conditions can harm or alter your assets, you can plan and budget for more supplies and procedures to help manage your schedule.
Protect Your Staff
Just as you would weatherproof your site, you should weatherproof your staff too—and we’re not just talking about raincoats. Your staff is arguably your biggest resource on a project and their comfort and safety should be a priority. One important way to first protect your workers is through proper personal protective equipment (PPE). In addition to normal year-round safety equipment, extreme weather conditions will call for their own PPE. Ensure work gear is adequate and fully functioning for adverse weather conditions (e.g. warm enough for winter, heat and sun protectant for summer, etc.). Moreover, full safety mechanisms in place like guardrails for high winds, covered areas in case of lightning, and emergency kits for extreme cold, will also help reduce the risk of staff injuries and fatalities.
Furthermore, don’t assume your workers will automatically understand the magnitude of bad weather. Training and support materials, preferably in dual language, will go a long way to highlight to your team the specific dangers weather poses in relation to your project. In the case that severe weather actually hits your project, a site supervisor should do a thorough inspection before greenlighting your staff to go back to work so no one goes back to work in hazardous conditions.
The well-being of your staff is a critical component of a successful project. If you take care of your workers, the better chances they can work productively, rain or shine, to finish construction activities without significant delays.
Address Weather Construction Delays in Your Contract
So, you’ve taken all the weather precautions you possibly can plan for. You’ve added more time to your schedule, adjusted your budget, and prepped your site and materials. Now, how can you be sure to protect your project from truly the unexpected? Even with solid planning, weather delays can still happen, but it doesn’t mean that they have to be devastating to your construction project schedule.
One way to mitigate weather delays in construction is through a streamlined change order process. In most projects, each weather delay will typically need a change order to the original schedule. Change orders are a pain point for both owners and contractors alike, causing additional delays just to get them approved, and worst case scenario, the need for litigation. However, change orders are always better managed when they are addressed clearly in the contract.
To better handle unavoidable bad weather delays, consider shifting the risk from the contractor to the owner in the contract. To do this, the provision should state that if the contractor believes that isolated or extended inclement weather makes the project unworkable for a period of time, then a delay should be submitted for approval to an owner or engineer to be incorporated as a change order. Most importantly, a weather delay change order process that streamlines the administrative procedure uncomplicates the project from moving forward. As a result, both the owner and contractor are happier and the project can move forward as quickly as possible after the weather has cleared.
Don’t Let Weather Create Significant Delays in Construction
Bad weather is bound to happen, but don’t let it completely wreck your project. Today, weather events are getting more intense and devastating, and projects need more planning and protection than in the past. With adequate schedule, site, staff and contract preparation, you can work with rather than against Mother Nature to complete your project without significant delays in construction.
Looking for a quick guide on how a wide-range of weather conditions can impact your project? Read (and share) our cheatsheet with tips on how you can brave the storm and protect your staff and jobsite.