The old saying “when it rains, it pours” might be the best way to define the first quarter of 2018. Since the beginning of the year, Cooper & Company has had over 40 weather-related days that have prevented us from pursuing projects in the way we would like to pursue our construction schedules. So, what do you do when this happens?
Cooper and Company President Steve Cooper says it is all about pre-planning and communication. “When we know that multiple days of rain or cold are expected in the forecast, it is on our team to make provisions,” Steve states that often it is all about working longer hours before the weather or coordinating with trades to rearrange schedules.
“We make an effort to be preventative before bad weather by planning to do things such as install footings that can be done in wet soil, cover sand areas with plastic, store our materials, or place gravel on soggy areas or areas that will pool water”
How We fight Mother Nature Head On
Since 2018 has presented so many weather-related delays due to both rain and cold, our project managers have dealt with the issues in multiple ways. On some of our projects that are further along in the process, we were able to alter our schedule and move from outdoor work to indoor finishes.
Project Manager Mike Westbrooks commented that he was fortunate at Stone Mountain High School because he was able to coordinate his trades and work schedule to move forward on interior renovation from planned exterior work. However, on his new construction project the Emory University Baseball team at Chappell Park, he wasn’t so fortunate.
“We had about two weeks of downtime at Chappell Park due to weather where we had to extend the completion schedule for their new clubhouse facility” stated Mike. “Our biggest challenge at Emory was more the cold weather than rain because we couldn’t lay any block below 40 degrees”.
Masonry usually isn’t installed if the weather drops below 40 degrees because the temperature of the mortar may drop below freezing and result in a disruptive expansion of the mortar as water in the mortar freezes. Also, wet or ice-covered unit surfaces to prevent the development of a good bond between mortar and unit. However, there are ways around this if the owner permits cold weather operations for masonry efforts.
For example, our Director of Field Operations Chris Ritchie talked about working with Gwinnett County to implement the use of heated water, heat blankets and diesel heated operations to allow for the continued work on the new Gwinnett Fire Station #15. Since this project is a priority for the county, any efforts to avoid delays were seriously considered when within reason.
However, Chris had to make preventative efforts to do as much work as possible for the new Habersham County Administrative Building. “We worked weekends and evenings prior to the cold and wet weather to get to retaining walls up for the site in Habersham and installed temporary gravel roads around the area prior to it being muddy to prevent site deterioration.”
Fighting the Never-Ending Battle
Our entire team is constantly aware of how the weather in the winter months around the southeast can shut down a job site. That is why planning for adverse weather patterns starts in the pre-construction planning phase of our projects to ensure that we try to appropriately schedule activities and downtime. We try to plan key activities for projects during the safer weather months when possible such as pouring concrete. Yet projects that need to be completed within shorter winter windows or need to come out of the ground before spring don’t allow for that kind of decision making.
We preventively discuss weather-related delays in our contracts and weather-proof our job sites as much as possible. By having these conversations up front, we protect the owner to the best of our ability and set realistic deadlines and expectations. Then it all boils back down to flexibility and communication.
Steve Cooper once again mentions the fact that he seeks out directors and project managers that know how to pick up the phone and think on their feet. “We can plan for the worst and hope for the best, but at the end of the day, it is just about being able to look at what is forecasted. Then we try and work with everyone from owners to trades to make sure we do the job to the best of our ability. “
Being One Step Ahead of Mother Nature
If you are considering beginning a project during the fall or winter months, then make sure that your team is ready to pre-plan for weather. Cooper and Company is always available to discuss ways to work within your timeline to complete your project. We can bring our 50 plus years of experience dealing with a mixture of weather-related experience to the conversation to help you achieve your goals. While we have a lot of ideas about how to work around various situations, we don’t have Mother Nature’s number. The one thing we can’t offer is control of the weather and we don’t know anyone who can. However, if you have Mother Nature’s phone number we would love to talk- so call us today!