winter construction project

Top 7 Winter Construction Challenges and Considerations

Were you planning to break ground on a commercial construction project this year only to put it on hold due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic or other factors? With so many unknowns, it’s difficult to know when is the right time to move forward.

With the winter months approaching, those in the Upper Midwest and other colder regions have even more considerations and construction challenges, but also potential opportunities depending on where you are in the planning process.

The time of year in which certain steps in the construction process are performed might affect your timeline and budget. Before winter weather and the next polar vortex descend on your region, consider moving forward with the following construction project elements to minimize delays and cost overruns.

1. Utilities

If you’re building a new facility on vacant land, a major issue is site development. If there aren’t any existing utilities, you may want to start the process for acquiring these necessities before the ground freezes. Underground utilities such as power, water, and sanitary sewer lines generally need to be dug and installed beneath the frost line. Once the ground is frozen, many municipalities and power companies will wait until it thaws to conduct the work. Depending on your desired project timeline and how severe of a winter it is, waiting until spring could create a significant setback. 

2. Foundations

Whether as minimal as a sidewalk or as expansive as a building’s footings and foundation, any concrete work that may be exposed to the elements should ideally be completed during warmer weather. Pouring concrete requires specific conditions, and additional measures need to be taken to ensure it cures properly in the event of freezing temperatures. If your project is facing this challenge, there are ways to mitigate costs and keep your project moving forward without compromising the quality of your project.

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3. Subcontractors

Most commercial general contractors are equipped to continue working through the winter months. However, many of the subcontractors they use may also do residential construction which typically experiences a slowdown in colder weather. This reduced demand for their services elsewhere could mean they have more flexibility to work on your project. With increased capacity, they may be able to get more done in a shorter time frame, helping offset other delays you may have experienced as a result of inclement weather.

4. Permits

The colder months could mean that securing necessary permits will be more streamlined, too. Because fewer construction projects may be in the works overall, demand for permits drops, allowing municipalities to spend more time reviewing and approving your project, calculating fees, and issuing permits. The number of permits and approvals required for commercial projects can feel overwhelming, so timing this aspect of your project to coincide when officials aren’t swamped by residential requests could play in your favor.

5. The Bidding Process

Completing your design process and putting together a bid package before winter could also result in more competitive bids. As mentioned earlier, subcontractors may have more availability during the winter months or may not have secured jobs for the spring yet. That may be especially true this year in light of uncertainties surrounding the pandemic’s impact on the industry. Not knowing what their schedules will look like in the coming months could provide motivation to submit more competitive pricing on bids. The same may hold true for supply chains and materials.

6. Funding

While not necessarily related to seasonal changes, interest rates are at all-time lows right now, allowing business owners to take advantage of savings over the long term. In particular, municipal bonds are more attractive than ever for community construction projects. There’s no way of knowing when lending rates may trend upward, so securing funding for your project sooner than later may be a wise move. The chances of rates being significantly lower in the near future are slim.

7. Construction Manager Availability

For any significant commercial construction project, you’ll want to leverage the services of a construction manager who is qualified in your industry. While other project owners may wait things out to begin planning and designing their expansion, renovation, or new building, it’s prudent to get ahead of the game before demand ramps back up. A qualified construction manager will have a very good gauge on what’s happening in the industry and in your region in particular, and can provide targeted recommendations, timelines, and guidance to fit within your budget. 

Consulting with a construction manager to simply explore your options typically won’t cost you anything. On the contrary, it will likely save a lot of money and headaches down the road. If you’d like to connect with our construction management team to discuss your needs and whether now is the right time to move forward, contact us. We’re happy to walk you through the options and help you understand what’s involved. Be sure to also access the guide below with additional questions you’ll want to bring to the table.

10 questions to ask a commercial general contractor

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