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Overcoming the Challenges of Winter Construction

Some may think construction companies shut down business in the cold winter months.

Like the birds, they fly south to work in warmer climates. But this isn’t the case. Why?

Because of budgetary planning, many decisions regarding construction projects are made in September, at the close of the second quarter. This peak decision-making time, however, could lead to projects being scheduled for cooler-weather months. And for those in northern climates, project owners have two options: go ahead with the project in the coldest weather of the year or wait until the spring thaw.

As construction professionals, we may face these less-than-perfect conditions at some point in our career, so it is crucial to know what problems or additional costs could arise ahead of time and plan for the worst (while, of course, hoping for the best).

Perhaps the greatest challenge for winter-weather construction is frozen ground. When the ground is frozen, a number of problems can arise. Concrete footings cannot be placed, only so much digging can be done on frozen ground, and melting frosts can lead to more mud and water in the construction site.

Schedule and budget construction projects in the winter

No matter what measures you take, sometimes these issues cannot be solved with anything but patience. If your business is contracted to begin a construction project in the cold winter months, it’s important to encourage patience among your project team and with your client. Although the waiting game can be difficult (and sometimes costly), it is a possibility that should be addressed during the planning phases of your project, in an effort to reduce the impact on overall project budget and schedule.

Another challenge of winter construction is fuel costs.

During the winter months, fuel usage can increase dramatically in certain kinds of equipment including concrete mixers (as it will take more fuel to run the boiler to heat the water, etc.), on-site heaters, and more. It is imperative to not only plan ahead for these increased costs before the project begins. If the costs are greater than the benefits of completing a project on time, the project owner and contractor may want to discuss closing shop during especially cold weather.

Get tight ASAP

If time allows, you can also try to reach project milestones, such as having the structure completed and tight to the weather before the cold sets in. If you can have the building ready for internal project completion, you can use the permanent heat system inside the building for construction site heat, saving a considerable amount of money over using temporary heating systems.

Finally, take all the challenges of winter construction into consideration during the project bid

When negotiating a contract with the owner, make sure to fully explain all the implications and costs association with winter building. If the timeline can be adjusted to complete a project before winter or after the spring thaw, that may be the best way to avoid costs from winter construction.

No matter your situation, two key factors are vital to winter construction: patience and flexibility. If you can encourage both and have adequate planning, construction projects in winter months can be possible and profitable.

Construction Advice For Entrepreneurs

Construction Advice Courtesy of Ken

Today’s post comes from Ken Y, Training & Development Manager. He shares words of wisdom that every new entrepreneur should read.

As a young man starting my own millwork company, I had all the confidence in the world. I had access to tools that weren’t exactly new, but were capable and dependable. I found a great facility that gave me space to do complicated projects while streamlining the process for production boxes. And perhaps most importantly, I had several talented builders coming to work for me. I had the tools and talent to produce high-end millwork and install it as well as anyone in the industry.

I had a solid business plan and I knew enough people that would feed me consistent work. I got the proper insurance and workman’s comp. coverage, an accountant, and a bank account and I was ready to go. Or so I thought.

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Top 10 Commercial Construction Books

Top 10 Commercial Construction Books

We admit that the best way to learn construction of any kind is to get out in the field, but a little reference material never hurt.

Here are our top 10 commercial construction books.

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Work Zone Safety: A Shared Responsibility

This week. April 11 – 15, 2016, is the 17th Annual National Work Zone Awareness Week which was started to increase public awareness about work zone safety and is held each April at the start of the highway construction season. This year’s theme is “Don’t Be That Driver!” with a kickoff event being held on Tuesday, April 12, 2016, near the I-75 widening project outside Toledo, OH.

This national event began as an internal awareness program initiated by the Bristol District of the Virginia DOT held April 7 – 11, 1997. The following year, the VDOT launched a statewide public awareness campaign to spread the word to promote safe driving habits and how to avoid hazards when traveling through work zones. In 1999, the American Traffic Safety Service Association (ATSSA), the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) got together and signed an agreement to create the National Work Zone Awareness Week with the inaugural event taking place in 2000.

Work zone safety is a shared responsibility between motorists and workers. In honor of National Work Zone Awareness Week, here some tips for both motorists and workers to follow to make sure everyone gets home safely.

Work Zone Safety Tips for Motorists

Don’t Speed. Speeding through a work zone could result in a hefty fine, jail time or the loss of life for you, another motorist or a construction worker. Speed limits in work zones are reduced for a reason and there’s nowhere you have to be that’s worth endangering the lives of others by speeding through a work zone.

Avoid Distractions. You need to stay alert and pay close attention to everything going on when driving through a work zone. This is not the time to be changing radio stations, talking on your phone, texting, eating nachos, practicing on your ukulele or finishing your taxes which are due next week. Heed the advice of The Doors and “keep your eyes on the road, your hands upon the wheel”.

Obey All Signs & Flaggers. When you enter a work zone you’ll encounter a number of those orange traffic signs or flaggers letting you know you need to reduce your speed, traffic patterns have shifted or that lanes are closed and you need to merge one way or the other.  Read them and heed them as soon as possible; it will help traffic flow more smoothly.

Find an Alternate Route. In most cases there is more than one way to get from Point A to Point B for your daily commute. I can think of few alternate routes off the top of my head that would get me to and from work that would avoid any of the active work zones in my area. If you aren’t sure of a way around the construction try using your GPS device or Google Maps to find an alternate route.

Remain Calm. Don’t drive angry. Dealing with work zone congestion can be frustrating. Stop-and-go traffic and long delays in your commute can get anyone’s blood boiling, but getting angry won’t get you to your destination any faster. Try leaving earlier to avoid the morning or afternoon rush.

Work Zone Safety Tips for Workers

Create Separate Work Areas. Road construction work zones are busy areas usually with several work activities taking place at the same time. To avoid accidents use cones, barrels and barriers to clearly delineate specific areas of the work zone such as material storage, areas where heavy equipment is being used, vehicle parking and safe areas for workers on foot to move about in.

Wear Proper Safety Equipment. Proper safety equipment should be worn by all personnel inside the work zone. Personal protective equipment (PPE) including hard hats, steel-toed boots, highly visible clothing and, depending on the noise levels, hearing protection. All PPE should meet or exceed the American National Standards Institute’s (ANSI) developed standards. All highly visible clothing whether it’s a vest, jacket or shirt should be bright fluorescent orange or lime/yellow and also have visible reflective material especially if working at night and should meet ANSI Class 2 or 3 standards.

Be Aware of Your Surroundings. Regardless of what your job duties entail in the work zone you should always be mindful of what’s going on around you. Avoid walking behind any vehicles that may be backing up or into the swing radius of heavy equipment. Whenever possible, face traffic while inside the work zone or have a spotter available when you have to have your back turned. Spotters should also be used to monitor the movement of vehicles and heavy equipment inside the work zone in addition to monitoring traffic in order to alert workers to any potential dangers.

Avoid Blind Spots. There are always vehicles and heavy equipment moving about inside the work zone including dump trucks, compactors, pavement planers, excavators, pavers and rollers. Operators should ensure that all mirrors and visual aid devices are attached and operating properly including backup alarms and lights. If you are on foot and working near these machines while in operation remember that the driver has a limited line of sight. Always stay in visual contact with the driver. A good rule of thumb to follow is that if you can’t see them then they probably don’t see you.

Have a Competent Person on Hand. A competent person should be onsite whenever work is being performed. According to OSHA, a competent person is someone who is “capable of identifying existing and predictable hazards in the surroundings, or working conditions which are unsanitary, hazardous, or dangerous to employees, and who has the authorization to take prompt corrective measures to eliminate them.” A competent person is needed to conduct hazard assessments and regular inspections of the worksite. A competent person is also needed to select the appropriate class of PPE to be used by workers and to approve the appropriate types of traffic control devices. Workers should report any unsafe hazards or equipment to the competent person assigned to the work zone so they can be corrected immediately.

Start Each Workday with a Safety Meeting. In addition to ensuring that all personnel at the jobsite have the proper training required it is also a good idea to have a quick safety meeting before work begins. Since conditions can change greatly from day to day in the work zone workers should be briefed on the work activity scheduled each day and notified of all potential hazards. This is also a good time to ensure that all workers have and are wearing the proper PPE required for the work being done that day.

Have a Site Specific Safety Program. Every road construction project is different and each work zone has its own unique hazards and challenges so creating a safety program geared specifically for the site can go a long way in preventing accidents. The site specific safety program include identifying all hazards and plans to control and mitigate them, schedules to routinely inspect all equipment and material, a plan for first aid and emergency medical care in the event of an accident and safety training schedules for all employees.

Stay Hydrated. Workers performing road construction are susceptible to overexertion and heat-related illnesses. Asphalt absorbs 95% of the sun’s rays and asphalt temperatures can easily be 30° F or higher than the surrounding air temperature. Workers should drink plenty of water or liquids high in electrolytes like sports drinks or coconut water. Workers should also get out of the heat and sun as much as possible especially on extremely hot days to avoid heatstroke, dehydration and heat exhaustion.

One Fine (Some)Day: Women in Architecture

One Fine (Some)Day: Women in Architecture

With the American Institute of Architects National Convention on my professional mind and Mother’s Day on my personal mind, I asked Google to tell me about women in architecture. Here’s what I learned…

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Green Construction Trends

Green Construction Trends: iSqFt Poll

With Earth Day and Arbor Day last week, it’s been pretty easy being green, so we put together the “Green Edition” of our iSqFt Nuts & Bolts newsletter. Check it out and let us know about your thoughts on green construction trends.

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green construction building

The Grass Is Greener, But What About the Concrete?

According to a recent article in Popular Science, the earth has been getting greener, “accumulating an additional 4 tons of biomass (vegetation) between 2003 and 2012.” With Earth Day on the horizon, I started to think about what role an increasingly green construction industry might have played.

Here are four important ways the industry improves the environment every day:

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Building A Satisfying Career

In a recent blog, iSqFt shared a report that employees in the construction industry rank #1 for employee happiness. Some of the reasons included satisfying relationships with co-workers and a clear career path. It got me to thinking about one key reason they didn’t mention that makes working in the industry so satisfying.

“We built that.”

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Why Are Construction Employees Happier?

Why Are Construction Employees Happier?

Our industry is buzzing with the news from TINYpulse: construction really is the best industry to work in. But I still had some questions after my recent blog. So why are construction employees happier? I reached out to TINYpulse for more on the data.

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Construction Folks Love Their Jobs (But Don't Hand Me a Hammer)

Construction Folks Love Their Jobs (But Don’t Hand Me a Hammer)

I have a confession: I’m not from this industry originally. I’m what you’d call a non-native, an interloper. Every time I’ve had a conversation with a customer, I’ve had to ask a million questions. Oh, sure, I know iSqFt inside and out, and I know the basics. You can hand me a hammer and I may or may not hit myself on the hand with it (you didn’t hear that, OSHA). But I’m still new, even after all of these months.

To put it bluntly, there’s a lot of information that I just don’t know and that I need to ask about.

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