Meeting project deadlines and tight budgets is a top priority in the architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) industry, but achieving this goal can be difficult. Market pressures, such as fluctuating materials costs, labor availability and the pandemic, can have a significant impact on construction projects. Environmental factors may also complicate efforts to keep projects running smoothly.

Complex logistics are essential to the success of all construction projects, and most things can be planned for. All materials can be delivered when needed if the project team identifies items in advance that have long lead times. With clear communication, labor can be scheduled appropriately. In addition, most projects can build days into the construction schedule to accommodate weather-related delays. However, when severe weather strikes, you also need a contingency plan.

Know the Terrain

It may seem counterintuitive, but it’s important to plan for unexpected weather as much as possible. Contractors and project managers should understand the project area and common weather events in that region. Reviewing historical weather data can be useful in identifying potential risks, and following local governance and ordinances can provide insight into road closures or other limiting factors.

In the Upper Midwest, for example, it is not uncommon for counties to limit travel on gravel roads once the ground begins to thaw. When contractors are aware of this, they can avoid delays by moving equipment in early or adjusting loads to meet weight requirements.

Maintain the Site

Depending on the location of the construction site, the project team may need to build access roads to safely and efficiently transport materials, equipment and personnel. Again, understanding local weather patterns provides valuable insight to this process.

In areas where heavy rains are possible, access roads must be designed and built to provide effective drainage and withstand high moisture saturation. Taking the time to design, build and maintain these roads properly can prevent costly and time-consuming equipment repairs later, as well as enable deliveries of critical materials to continue on schedule.

On the construction site itself, proper drainage becomes more important than ever. Sealing up sites and materials during heavy rain allows moisture to shed away from vulnerable sites and keeps water from ponding. Having appropriate pumps in place allows project leaders to set up temporary drainage in active areas and keep teams working.

Choose Equipment Wisely

Many contractors prepare for equipment failures by having multiple pieces of important equipment on-site. This strategy can be refined by identifying the specific ways various weather conditions will affect equipment and then choosing the right equipment for the conditions. For instance, continuous track vehicles are less likely to sink in mud or leave heavy ruts on roads and work sites. Proper maintenance, including greasing tracks and removing mud, also plays a role in reducing breakdowns and construction delays.

Above all, careful preparation — including procurement execution planning, freight and logistics management, site maintenance and equipment selection — is key to completing construction projects on time and on budget. Researching and anticipating weather challenges today will allow project teams to continue working as efficiently as possible in all conditions.

Andrew Loftus is a project manager at Burns & McDonnell. He specializes in design and construction services for aviation projects, including site investigations and studies, design criteria development, site planning and layout, grading, drainage, and pavement and utility design.