19 Nov 2019

Are UK construction sites ready for the coldest winter on record?

Construction site heating and drying
 
  • Written By

    Ryan Stanley, Sector Development Manager, Temperature and Moisture Control
    UK

  • Published in

    UK

Are UK construction sites ready for the coldest winter on record?

As the UK braces for yet another winter on record (apparently one of the coldest winters since 1963) we are reminded of the infamous Beast from the East which crippled our nation last year. With climate change rightly saturating UK headlines, we can only expect the country to experience more and more extreme weather as our planet continues to get warmer.

One industry that knows all too well about the absolute chaos that adverse weather can cause is construction. But how highly does this rank on the agenda in the planning stages of a project? I’m not so sure.

It’s not just the UK where projects fail to meet deadlines set out in the planning stages, we see it all over the world. But, worryingly, project delays and wastage are a major issue due to sites not being prepared for the unpredictable weather.

According to Construction Management and Economics, UK weather added 21% onto the duration of construction projects. Meanwhile those that planned ahead for adverse weather saw an average 16% reduction in duration time. The numbers simply do not lie.

Playing with temperatures and moisture levels
Temperature and moisture control is such a crucial factor in the build stages of a project and maintaining a decent condition throughout should be paramount. It can have catastrophic effects in terms of programme delays, which of course can see significant fines mount up but, even worse so, have a damaging effect on a site manager’s reputation along with the main contractor.

Anyone in construction knows summer seems to be the prime handover period. People buy property in the sunshine and so it makes complete sense that companies want to handover a site between April and June. Having the foresight to get the building closed up and ready for winter is vital, but this is where many are falling down regarding the internal temperatures.

When a building shell is first constructed, the many openings created for windows leave the interior exposed to the elements. As soon as those openings are closed with windows, everything needs to be installed to a suitable temperature (normally around 10-15°C, and some hygroscopic materials at a settled RH%). If it isn’t? The consequences could be catastrophic in terms of:

  • Plaster not drying out
  • Flooring starts bubbling
  • Paint and decorating won’t set
  • Glue won’t set for hard flooring
  • Electrics are unusable if surrounded by moisture
  • Doors can fluctuate in size if installed in the cold then warmed up later

The above just a couple of examples of issues sites come across and the cost implications of these things going wrong and causing wastage can be eye watering.

It’s important to remember that a concrete building will drop to a colder temperature than the weather itself. What’s more, people won’t work in those conditions so you’re at risk of workers leaving site and delaying the project further.

I like to use the analogy of making jelly when it comes to temperature control. It can’t be too hot, and it can’t be too cold.

Top tips to weather the storm

1. Get ahead of yourself - plan it in the early stages of the project by ensuring the building is closed off just before the autumn hits and make sure there is a controlled environment in place with thermostatically and humidistat-controlled equipment.

2. Create equilibrium – most importantly temperature and moisture control are two different things that need to be balanced to create the perfect environment. We can work out the perfect conditions on a site using specialist equipment.

3. Don’t ONLY heat dampness – one of the most common issues I come across is people ramping the heating up to 25 degrees on site and then opening he windows to try and push the moisture out. Not only it this using far too much energy, it is far less effective than proper dehumidification.

4. Compatibility is everything – having also seen many sites opt for cheaper dehumidifiers and expect them to work in harmony with heating equipment, it’s worth ensuring equipment is compatible and high spec to ensure you don’t run into these problems later down the line.

In terms of technological advancements, our new Aggreko Remote Monitoring (ARM) system is now available for all temperature and moisture products. This means we can log on whenever there are fluctuations in weather and plan the humidity accordingly, creating complete peace of mind for construction managers. It is also an alarmed system, notifying us and your site to any dramatic changes where action may be required.


READ MORE

  • Find out more about our dehumidification and moisture control equipment here.
  • Read other blogs in the extra comes as standard series here.
  • Download our guide to choosing flexible power solutions here.

 

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