Construction projects of all types require complex logistics to get the job done on time and within the necessary budget. Most things can be planned for — such as the delivery of materials or the scheduling of labor — but one huge unknown remains: weather.

On most projects, contracts build time into the construction schedule to allow for missed days during heavy rain or other weather-related events. In these situations, construction contractors typically shut down a site for the day, while the contract is extended to meet project schedule needs. However, on projects with tight deadlines or strict schedules, this practice may not work.

Projects in these situations must have contingency plans in place to deal with unexpected or abnormally strong or lengthy weather events. Managing the risks associated with weather on a construction site controls costs and keeps projects on schedule.

Plan Ahead

It may seem self-explanatory but having a detailed plan, as you would on any construction project, is one of the most effective ways to mitigate weather-related delays.

Contractors and project managers must understand the project area and the weather events commonly associated with that area. Looking at historical weather data can assist in understanding potential weather risks to the construction phase of the project. In this way, contractors and project managers can prepare themselves to mitigate the risks.

Access Roads

The delivery of materials, equipment and personnel to the project site is paramount to delivering scheduled work on any given day. Depending on the location of the site, the construction of access roads may be required to safely and efficiently move these commodities.

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 and build these roads properly may be required to avoid costly and time-consuming repairs as well as late deliveries of important materials.


Drainage on a construction site is already a significant factor in keeping operations going; however, in heavy rain conditions, drainage becomes even more important. Having the proper pumps in place and setting up temporary drainage in active areas allows teams to continue work.

Sealing up sites and materials during heavy rain will allow moisture to shed away from sites or materials that can be damaged by water. Also, having the right materials on-site for removing water and preventing it from reaching materials saves time and money.


Equipment failures are unavoidable. Many contractors prepare for this eventuality by having multiple pieces of important equipment on-site in case of a breakdown. Understanding that some weather conditions will affect equipment in different ways will further protect from costly downtime.

Additionally, having the right piece of equipment for the conditions is also a good way to avoid downtime. For instance, continuous track vehicles are less likely than tired vehicles to sink in mud or leave heavy ruts on roads and work sites.

More than anything, preparation and planning are the keys to successfully constructing a project. Addressing weather issues today instead of thinking about them two months in will help everyone stay on the ball. Giving all stakeholders the information necessary to take on weather-related issues upfront will save time and money.


Successful delivery of time-sensitive construction projects requires careful planning, especially in the face of extreme weather conditions. Find out how one airport project used weather mitigation techniques to meet a tight deadline.


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.