Weather-related construction delays in a changing climate.
Delays on construction projects are frustrating and costly for all parties. A project can be delayed for several reasons including labour shortages, insufficient drawings or information, safety breaches, or weather. Some delays are the fault of the contractors or clients, these are controllable whereas delays like bad weather are beyond control.
Weather-related delays are frustrating for everyone involved in the project because no one likes to be held up and no one wants to lose time or money. Construction delays due to extreme weather events will continue to happen for as long as we continue to build on this planet, so it’s important to work with the weather, not against it.
All around the world construction projects are affected by bad weather, not only heavy rain but also extreme cold, extreme heat, wind, thunderstorms, and even snow or ice. Weather that affects the construction activity on-site includes any weather conditions that make working onsite impossible, unsafe, or unreasonable.
Naturally, outdoor construction work is more exposed to extreme weather. Likewise, different stages of the building process will be more exposed to weather events than others. Where a project is still in excavation, groundworks, or even in the earlier stages of the structure, the weather has a lot more impact than when the build reaches a lock-up stage where internal works can continue regardless of rain or bad weather.
Most delays can be avoided with good planning and scheduling.
With adequate planning and scheduling contractors and subcontractors can optimise their plans and resources around weather delays. Try to keep the weather-dependent work for days with good weather, that way, when the bad weather comes, you’ve got work to go on with that doesn’t depend on the weather.
If you can leverage and count on new technologies and data, it may be possible to smooth over the weather delays by shifting tasks and adjusting your programs and labour allocation. Things like site-specific weather alerts and extended weather forecasts will give contractors enough time to better plan for the event and mitigate the delay.
Otherwise, you could factor in a buffer or margin to allow for weather-related delays but while this would help for the financial losses, it won’t do much to ease the time delays.
A common approach is to allow for it in the contract, adding extra days to the construction program to allow for any weather-related delays or allowing for weather-based time extensions. Due to this being part of a contract there will be more of a legal side of it where you may need proof of the weather making construction activity impossible.
Weather delays are rarely limited to a single day, the extreme weather itself usually lasts a few days or weeks. The delays that follow the bad weather have follow-on delays like a domino effect on contractor schedules, delivery of materials, permits, and other documentation.
Timely communication is key.
Communicating the delays quickly and effectively gives all the contractors and subcontractors time to react accordingly. Effective communication could be as simple as an email or phone call, but for larger-scale projects, it would be worth looking into a scheduling program or automated workflows.
Automated workflows will allow you to trigger extensions and other processes which become urgent in the face of weather delays. Automated systems may also allow you to send a broadcast delay message to all contractors involved in the project rather than individual messaging.
Part of communicating the delays is about reacting to the delay positively to mitigate the delay and reduce disputes, but another part of communicating the delays is to ensure you’re not held responsible for delays that are outside your control, such as weather-related delays.
Rain is the most obvious in the challenges for construction sites. First, you need to consider that heavy rain, lightning, and thunderstorms can pose significant threats to employees and the build during the storm but even after the rain subsides, the projects can continue until the structure, or the ground is dry. In heavy rain events and flash flooding, this could easily take days or even weeks.
Wind poses a threat for larger-scale projects where a tower crane is being used. The load being lifted may have a wide surface that could catch the wind, and the higher the lift is, the gustier the winds will be which could also be dangerous. Construction sites will disallow the use of the tower crane for delivery unloads if it’s too windy which means trucks get turned away and asked to come back later.
Work with the weather, not against it.
There are so many weather-related hazards you wonder how the work ever gets done! But if you plan properly and shift the work and the labour to suit the weather-dependent activities you can minimise the weather’s effect on your project.
The weather obviously isn’t controllable, but it is manageable, if you think smart your project will be completed on time regardless of the bad weather. When there is a delay that does impact the completion date but isn’t caused by the contractor, they should be entitled to a time extension and are sometimes given more lenience for loss and expenses as well.
A reliable supplier makes all the difference.
Having suppliers who are reliable and have a good level of communication can help you navigate these delays and get you up and running again.
FTI Group has a full logistics service which means we have more control over product delivery.
From the time the product is scheduled into our production system, we closely follow the programs of the construction sites we deliver to. The Production Team calls the site contact 3 days before the product is scheduled to be made, this is to confirm the site is still on track to receive the product on the scheduled delivery date. Then, the day before the scheduled delivery, the Logistics Team will make another call to the site contact to confirm the site is ready for the delivery and that there have been no delays.
For significant weather events like major rain or flash flooding, our Team will make further calls to check if that construction site has been affected by the weather events and if there will be any delays as a result.
For peace of mind, choose a reliable supplier with good communication and excellent customer service.