The end of 2013 and the start of 2014 marked a period of exceptionally bad weather across the United States. New housing construction dropped to the lowest monthly total ever recorded, even when the Great Recession was at its lowest point. And as 2014 ends, early-season arctic air and snow blasts have set records across the country from the Pacific Northwest to the East Coast.There is little about weather that doesn’t affect the commercial construction industry. The weather is hot and dry or it is wet; winds blow gently or at gale force level; snow, hail, or sleet falls; storm fronts can bring thunder and lightning. Each weather condition brings potential challenges to any construction project.Weather affects performanceWeather extremes can slow down or bring construction activity to a halt. Extremes of wind, cold, heat, or precipitation can adversely affect the construction site. But weather also affects the equipment, materials, AND the personnel. Let’s look at how the weather influences construction:
Work stoppage – this seems fairly obvious. It’s too hot/cold/wet/windy to safely continue working. It may be unsafe to even travel to the work site.
Product performance -weather also affects the performance of many construction materials:
Moisture – can develop into mold in porous materials like wood, insulation, fiber products, and masonry and can compromise the integrity of the materials.
Dry- lack of moisture can be as problematic as too much moisture. During extremely dry weather conditions, the normal moisture content in concrete and masonry can evaporate too quickly, reducing concrete’s compressive strength. The bond strength between bricks and mortar can be reduced, causing masonry leaks.
Heat-application and performance of paint is affected by heat and UV exposure. Paint can fail to cure properly, resulting in delamination, wrinkles, blisters, cracking, peeling, fading, and embrittlement.
Cold – additional equipment is often required to keep construction materials at proper temperatures. Forced air heaters and ground thaw equipment may be utilized to ensure materials remain with required temperature ranges during installation. Even sand, aggregate, and water must be heated to prepare concrete properly.
Freeze-thaw cycles + UV exposure – extremes of weather changes reduce the resiliency of seals and sealants; sealants lose their elasticity, ultimately fail, and must be replaced.
Equipment performance – dry, wet, and cold weather conditions affect the performance of equipment. Dust is a common problem during windy, dry weather and it can work its way into the working parts of equipment. Many types of equipment must be winterized during cold weather to ensure their safe, continued function.
Worker safety – Each season brings seasonally unique safety risks to commercial construction workers.Extremely cold weather can cause frostbite, hypothermia, and dehydration. Sunburn, hyperthermia, heat prostration or heat stroke, and dehydration are common risks in extremely hot weather. These are insidious and potentially life-threatening conditions and the worker can be totally unaware that one (or more) of the conditions is developing.Thunder, lightning, and high winds create dangerous working conditions and work must cease while the conditions play out. Workers are at highly increased risk of electrocution, falling, or being struck by lightning or flying debris during these extreme weather conditions.Ignoring weather risks costs moneyWhile weather-related work delays are potentially costly to the project budget, so are the loss of personnel, equipment, and materials. Some delays and loss can be reduced by anticipating weather-related risks and working with the conditions (and the weather) as much as possible.There will be some challenging weather days, but there also will be many good-weather commercial construction days.