Tips for Planning Construction Projects Around Severe Weather

Maintaining a project’s schedule and safety of operations are some of the main concerns for contractors. Here are some tips and best practices from leaders in the industry for maintaining safe, timely operations regardless of the weather.
By Courtland Keith
July 14, 2021

In the construction industry, maintaining a project’s schedule and safety of operations are some of the main concerns for project leaders. During severe weather season, typically spring and summer for the United States, heavy winds and rain, lightning, high temperatures, and flooding can be disastrous for scheduling and safety. There can be especially harsh impacts during the Atlantic hurricane season. Here are some tips and best practices from leaders in the industry for maintaining safe, timely operations regardless of the weather.

  • Know the construction site’s weather history. Historical weather information is critical when creating the most airtight construction schedule possible. However, even if a region hasn’t experienced a large amount of severe weather before, it’s still possible that a site in that region could encounter severe weather. This is especially true as the amount and severity of damaging weather increases across the United States, in large part due to climate change. Always ensure the project plan accounts for severe weather, but particularly the types that the region is prone to seeing.
  • Use a long-range weather forecast planner to make project adjustments for expected severe weather and utilize alerts to respond to immediate weather concerns. Long-range planning tools also help to position fleets and optimize the supply chain.
  • Remember that certain project activities (such as cranes, staging/scaffolding, excavation and concreting) and different types of construction materials (such as wood and metals) all have different weather thresholds. Differentiating alerts around these thresholds is an important step in the planning process. This ensures each step of the project can proceed in the safest way possible, without damaging construction materials.
  • Missed deadlines happen—sometimes it’s unavoidable. But historical weather reporting and expert data interpretation help avoid the risks and consequences associated with weather delays. The right data helps paint a picture of what to expect at a construction site, enabling contractors to develop a more appropriate contract period. For example, knowing temperature and precipitation averages will help establish a more realistic start and construction time frame.

What Do Industry Leaders Prioritize for Severe Weather?

After several serious near misses in recent years, Skanska, one of the world's leading project development and construction groups, saw the need for a weather forecasting service adapted to the processes in their construction projects. Skanska’s main priorities for this service were that it:

  • Gives seven-days notice on a set of weather parameters including wind, gusts, precipitation and temperature;
  • Sets up alerts as SMS to an unlimited number of individuals and integrate with info screens for production planning and implementation of preventive security measures; and
  • Includes a dashboard solution where specific time windows are given for safe construction activities such as casting, painting, crane operations and drone flying.

Another aspect that should be prioritized is having local weather expertise available, which can often be overlooked in projects—leading to delays and incidents. This is especially true when project managers, who may not be local, are unfamiliar with the region’s weather. The local weather expert should be available every day, around the clock, to provide guidance on how to safely and effectively complete operations.

Contractors should also consider partnering with a weather provider to receive live lightning monitoring, daily video briefings, and detailed, long lead-time reports on all storm developments that may have impacted operations.

The Key to Managing Severe Weather

Ultimately, when planning a construction project, it is critical to receive trusted, detailed weather forecasts that are customized to the project’s timeline, location and specific needs. Having meteorologists available for consultation takes the guessing out of decision making—keeping a project safe while also prioritizing time.

by Courtland Keith
A trained meteorologist with StormGeo, Courtland Keith combines a background in interpreting the weather with the experience of counseling businesses across all industries, including construction and telecom, on how to respond to and prepare for severe weather threats.

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