Stay warm out there


A construction worker navigates a beam at a winter job site. Courtesy Elzinga & Volkers

Those of us who have lived in Michigan for any length of time know that a Michigan winter can be harsh. Sub-zero temperatures and lake-effect snow can close our schools and grind our highways to a halt. Along those same lines, the Michigan winter certainly doesn’t consider the continued demand for construction in West Michigan when it blows into our area.

Despite the weather, developers, building owners and contractors are “plowing” through the winter weather to meet deadlines and critical milestones. Next time you drive by one of the many West Michigan construction sites, keep a few things in mind about those dedicated tradespeople working hard to build a better West Michigan.

A hot meal is a luxury

An electrician on one of our projects was recently thanking us for hosting a trade appreciation cookout on the project site. He reminded me that it is rare that trades get to enjoy a hot meal on the project site. Typically, tradespeople grab a cold lunch in a quiet corner or in a cramped construction office before quickly returning to the cold. If you are a building owner or prime contractor, consider the impact that a simple, hot meal can have on your jobsite during the dark days of winter.

Safe work may be slow

Ice, wind, snow and cold temperatures complicate the already complicated process of constructing a building. Most importantly, winter weather can make construction work significantly more dangerous. Cold weather requires more frequent breaks for workers and high winds may make certain tasks, like the use of cranes or lifts, impossible. Since winter will almost certainly impact your project timeline at some point, the best defense against these weather delays is to plan for them. Well-planned projects will anticipate weather delays and have a detailed procedure in place to report and document them in your overall project schedule. What we cannot allow is for a project schedule to be more valuable than our workers.

Cold temperatures can affect quality

When schedules get tight, there is a tendency to rush the installation of materials or push the tolerances of some materials’ installation restrictions. Materials like concrete, mortar, caulking, adhesives and paints all have very specific tolerances for temperature that will affect their long term performance. Don’t risk the short-term schedule gains for a long-term warranty problem. Most of the time, the short delay will cost you less in the long run.

On the bright side, winter will give way to spring as it always does. A quick look through the business section of any paper will reveal a host of projects slated to start in the spring, showing that the construction industry in West Michigan remains hot even if the weather isn’t. Stay safe and remember to thank the hard-working tradespeople on your sites for their perseverance in these tough winter months.

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