It’s that time of year again when the winter wonderland means snow, ice, freezing winds, and more cups of coffee or tea. For winter construction sites, extreme weather hinders construction progress in many parts of the U.S. The industry as a whole is one of the most vulnerable to the uncertainty of weather conditions. In this two-part blog post series, we’ll offer some great tips and suggestions for maximizing time during the winter slow-down in construction. You’ll be ready to ramp up business quickly once the warm weather returns.
Bad Weather Halting Projects?
When cold weather strikes, the ground can freeze. Digging is slow and difficult. Days are shorter. Workers need more frequent breaks to warm themselves and change out of wet clothing.
Project progress is often delayed or completely halted. Schedules slip as crews wait out storms. Bad weather delays 45% of construction projects worldwide, costing construction firms billions annually. What’s more, snow and rain, especially if unanticipated, can damage equipment and materials.
It can also be challenging to work with cement, muds, paints and adhesives. Bad weather also puts workers at risk. More than 42,000 workers took time off due to injuries caused by ice and snow in 2014. Given the rise of extreme weather events due to climate change, this number will rise over time. Project managers also need to be mindful of important OSHA safety standards in extreme weather to cease non-essential construction.
During winter, regions such as the Northeast, Upper Midwest, and Central West are hit the hardest by cold weather and snowstorms. Even with great preparation and familiarity of cold weather, these regions are experiencing unforeseen weather due a rise in extreme weather events. Other areas are impacted as well. Texas, for example, was covered in freezing rain in February 2021. This resulted in about a half inch of ice covering the ground in some places. With the electrical grid unprepared for such conditions, almost the entire state lost power. This failure costs hundreds of lives, and the Texas economy suffered $80 billion–$130 billion in direct and indirect economic losses.
Extreme weather events continue to increase.
And in November, the Dakotas and Minnesota endured blizzard conditions and winds of up to 40 mph. Climate change is adding to the problem, causing extreme weather like we’ve never seen before. Record-breaking cold weather in several parts of the country were partly responsible for a 9.3% decrease in housing starts in February 2021, compared to February 2020. The Northeast got the worst of it, with a 40% decrease.
Part 1 – Weathering a Slow-down in Winter Construction
So what can you do if your firm serves a region where cold winter weather freezes construction? Here are 6 ways to be productive and set your firm up for success during a winter-related slow-down:
1. Focus on lead generation and outreach.
Prospecting should be a year-round endeavor. During the winter slow-down in construction, you have time on your hands to focus on marketing and promotion. Now is the time to update your website with fresh content, and new photos and timelapses from recent projects. Revise your corporate presentation so you’re armed and ready when the phone rings with updated slides and materials that showcase your most recent work. Research and attend industry trade shows to connect with potential partners, suppliers and developers. The new leads you generate may take some time to pan out. By then, the snow will have melted, and you’ll have jobs lined up and ready come springtime.
2. Focus on Pre-construction activities.
Narrowing down the design with clients, completing and submitting bids, and surveying sites when the weather is decent enough will allow your firm to quickly start the build phase of projects once good weather resumes. Also, good pre-planning and pre-construction planning helps avoid costly errors and change orders during the build phase.
3. Get your books in order.
Tax season can sneak up on you. Use the quieter winter months to prepare ahead. Make sure all your documentation is complete and accessible in case of an audit. Re-evaluate your accounting system and processes to ensure next year’s accounting tasks don’t hold you back from cashing in on the leads you generated when you ramped up your marketing outreach.
4. Ramp up digital transformation initiatives.
When business slows down, it’s the perfect time to revisit your digital transformation initiatives. Work to optimize the tools and systems you’re using on the jobsite and in the office. Make sure you have best-in-class jobsite technology in place so your crews are as productive as possible when jobs start up again. Look for ways to integrate tools with your project management software, to streamline processes and workflows. Consider cloud-based solutions to help reduce overhead and risk. Budgeting for technology investments during slower months will pay off in the long-run and set your firm up to capitalize on the influx of work once the warm weather returns.
5. Prepare for extreme weather events.
Depending on your construction focus, make sure processes are in place to jump into action if demand spikes for services. Roofers, for example, may need to come to the rescue after severe storms or hail events. Fences blow over, and siding is damaged during severe winter storms. Are you prepared for a high volume of weather-related repair and renovation requests? Not only will you need to streamline the process of ordering and receiving materials, but you’ll also need to document construction. This provides visual proof to insurers that may be paying for repairs. Do you have those systems in place? Now is the time to get ready for the potential onslaught of weather-related emergency projects.
6. Stay inside during the slow-down in winter construction.
Winter is a perfect time to prioritize interior projects like remodels and renovations. Homeowners looking to take advantage of lower bids may want to remodel bathrooms or kitchens after the holidays. Businesses may opt to renovate, remodel or repartition office space while employees take time off. If a current project is on hold due to the weather, shift schedules around. Prioritize any required modular construction – which usually happens indoors – until outdoor construction can resume.
Construction cameras are an essential tool on today’s modern jobsite in any weather. TrueLook’s are top-of-the-line, offering the richest feature set. Every camera comes with limitless cloud storage of all photos and videos and integrations with popular project management software such as Procore, PlanGrid and AutoDesk. During the winter slow-down in construction, it’s the perfect time to put a new process in place or to upgrade a less efficient one. With plug-and-play installation and deployment, you won’t waste any time getting up and running when construction begins. Watch a live demo, or contact us today for a quote.
Now, read part 2 of our Winter tips blog post series for three great ideas to prepare staff and crews for work picking back up in the springtime.