04 Dec 2019

How to Improve Construction Schedules in Winter

Construction worker at winter weather

Extreme weather can seriously interfere with your construction project. Snow, ice and winter storms are unpredictable – and if you’re not prepared to deal with them, they will quickly set you back, pushing you behind schedule and over budget.

Let’s take a look at 4 ways to make your winter scheduling more robust.

1.    Allow for Erratic Weather in the First Place

First of all, it’s important to recognize that you can’t control the weather. You probably won’t be able to progress outdoor work as quickly in the cold as you can in spring and summer. 
It’s far better to build these anticipated delays into your initial scheduling and allocate resources accordingly than to be overly optimistic. If you do the latter, there’s a significant change you could end up going over budget, paying through the nose for unexpected overtime or stockpiling materials you can’t use (and have to pay to put in storage) because working conditions don’t match up with your anticipated schedule. 
Don’t rely on guesswork, though. A good start is to review productivity and progress from the same time-frames in previous years to assess when in the year you experienced slowdowns and what kind of problems led to delays. This will help you to be realistic about your plans right from the outset - and to avoid any nasty surprises.

2.    Get Your Planning Done in Winter

Before you start work, you will need to plan and organize your project. This is always a large undertaking, involving extensive meetings and discussions with contractors, suppliers, engineers, architects, temporary utilities vendors and so on. You will also need to figure out your costs and start placing orders for materials, especially if any of these have longer lead times for import or delivery. Crucially, you’ll have to start the process of obtaining any permits you need for construction work (for example, from local authorities and governing bodies) long in advance. 
The good news is that this stage of development isn’t affected by the weather. Take advantage of the colder months to check off all your preliminary planning tasks and develop contingency plans, so that you’re ready to hit the ground running when spring comes along.
Your contractors and subcontractors are very unlikely to be as busy in winter as they are in spring and summer. That means it will actually be easier to organize meetings and to get their undivided attention on your project if you approach them at this time of year.
Don’t waste this opportunity. Procure quotes now, while companies are anxious to secure work for the next quarter and more amenable to negotiating budget-friendly rates. Get the ball rolling on permit approvals while local offices have fewer applications to process. Hold consultations, job interviews and briefings now, so that you’ve secured your core team and everyone’s on board and prepared by the time construction needs to get underway.  

3.    Tackle Inside Work While It’s Cold

Are you already well past those initial planning stages? In that case, focus on allocating other parts of the project that won’t be affected by the weather outside for completion during the winter months.
Build your schedule so that that work that must take place outdoors, such as concrete pours, exterior framing, masonry or preparing the site, will be comfortably out of the way before the ground freezes over or the snow starts falling. Then, move on to interior work when it gets colder. It’s much easier to provide comfort heating for enclosed spaces, so if you’re able to move your team inside the structure to work during winter, that’s half the battle, even if the building isn’t yet connected to any electricity sources.

To be safe, do your research and get a clear idea of weather trends over several years in your area. Try to give yourself plenty of leeway as you plan, as weather is obviously unpredictable and winter conditions can always start earlier than expected.

4.    Manage the Conditions on Your Jobsite

Of course, there will be times when you can’t arrange things to completely avoid any outdoor work during winter. This isn’t the end of the world, you just need a clear plan for how you’re going to heat your jobsite accordingly.
Find a rental utilities company as soon as possible with extensive experience in the construction sector. They’ll be able to help you figure out what you need in terms of standalone heaters, power and systems or even tents and other forms of insulation, or order to contain and circulate warm air around the jobsite. 

The sooner you engage a vendor, the more time they’ll have to figure out the most efficient and cost-effective solution for your project. Ideally, you should involve them right from your initial planning stages, so that they can ring-fence key items of equipment for you when the cold weather hits, ensuring that you’re their priority customers in a crisis.

Final Thoughts

Staying on or ahead of schedule during winter is all about identifying potential problems in advance and thinking through how you’ll handle these challenges when they arise. With careful planning, cold weather shouldn’t throw you off – and if you do get caught off guard, a quick call to a top rental utilities provider for emergency heating should get you back on track.