By Brian Costa, OMNI Resource Management
It’s no secret that New England winters are some of the least forgiving across the entire country, and even though the climate is less than ideal for building projects, the show must go on. Frigid temperatures, unpredictable precipitation, frozen ground, and fewer hours of daylight can all have a substantial impact on your winter work schedule.
Starting with the obvious… it’s cold! The World Health Organization suggests a minimum ambient temp of 64.4°F to keep our bodies functioning properly, so even in milder climates, cold days can be extremely dangerous to unprotected workers. Try to plan your project appropriately so permanent utilities are already in place before the cold surges start to hit. Heating the inside of a building with services from the local utility company can save you big bucks over temporary heating outfits.
Besides the cold temps, winter storms in New England present contractors with a whole new set of complications. Heavy winds can move unsecured materials through the air unexpectedly, destroy erected scaffolding, and take a toll on unfinished construction. Snow can come down in blankets and bury unprotected job site assets before you even have the chance to cover them. Your best chance to combat these worrisome winter hindrances is to stay aware of the weather that’s coming your way and prepare for it, rather than react to it.
Pouring concrete in the winter is a great way to ruin a project. Even if you manage to get it poured and set, when the ground thaws and inevitably settles in the spring, you’ll be greeted with cracks and breakage a-plenty. Tenting is an option here but it can get expensive quickly. When possible, try to schedule your concrete work before the harsh winter conditions set in, or after the frost has broken.
By the time the winter solstice hits toward the end of December, New Englanders can catch a total of about 8.6 hours of sunlight for the entire day. That’s not a whole lot of time to accomplish in-depth projects. Take this into consideration during your winter development strategy.
So how do you avoid all of these potential problems?
Short answer… you can’t. This Earth has been around a lot longer than any of us, and mother nature is going to do what mother nature is going to do. The secret to coming out on top of winter construction is simply effective planning. Plan ahead and then plan even further ahead of that. Create SOP’s for specific weather conditions and communicate with your crew to ensure work continues efficiently, and more importantly, safely.
While winter work isn’t the easiest, it certainly isn’t impossible. A knowledgeable and experienced general contractor (like OMNI Building Services) can keep projects rolling smoothly through the rough winter months, so you can stay on schedule and on budget.