How Cold Weather Affects the Construction Industry

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As the weather turns colder across the United States, many construction industry professionals experience changes in productivity and material behavior. By anticipating the affects that low temperatures have on your business, you can adjust your scheduling and building methods accordingly. In doing so, you can minimize the impact on efficiency and ensure that your projects are completed on schedule.

For companies in the construction industry, cold weather means higher costs. To keep workers warm and ensure that equipment runs smoothly, most companies need to spend more on fuel and maintenance. In some cases, companies must use additional fuel to prevent or reverse equipment freezes in the winter. With diesel fuel costs hovering near $4.00 per gallon, many businesses are seeing fuel take up a larger portion of the per-project budget. In addition, because bad weather affects shipping rates and material availability, you might be forced to pay higher prices for building supplies.

Another common cold-weather problem for the construction industry is a delayed building schedule. During unexpected snowstorms, most construction projects come to a halt when workers are unable to drive to the job site or work safely. Extreme low temperatures can also compromise worker safety, forcing site managers to stop construction.

During the polar vortex that occurred in early 2014, many companies in the construction industry had no choice but to delay work until the cold weather let up. According to Equipment World, a company in Vermont discovered that the low temperatures in early January and a rise in the water level had resulted in a crane frozen into the river below a bridge. A construction company in Cincinnati had to delay construction of a new streetcar line when temperatures were too low to allow concrete to cure properly, even with a special heating system. Each delay or mishap translates to considerable loss of productivity and material loss, which affects the bottom line.

When the temperatures drop, many companies in the construction industry face an increase in absent workers and employee turnover. When workers do not show up, a crew is forced to work shorthanded or scramble to find fill-in staff. As a result, construction projects may fall behind schedule. If workers begin to quit when the weather gets cold, companies must hire new workers, resulting in higher training costs and expensive construction delays.

For most companies, scheduling is a crucial aspect of reducing high winter construction costs. By installing foundations before the ground freezes and ensuring that you are well stocked with building supplies before prices rise, you can save a significant amount of money. While many aspects of winter building projects cannot be avoided, including unexpected storms or deep freezes, preventative measures are crucial for cold-weather success in the construction industry.


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