By: Adam McManus
The last quarter of the year can pose significant hurdles for exterior construction projects, especially in New York City. There is a myriad of common challenges that range from construction embargoes for street and sidewalk closures at the holidays to cold temperatures and inclement weather dictating hard deadlines for end of year projects. Additionally, fiscal budgets commonly don’t align with the beginning and end of the calendar year. Therefore, ensuring that project completion dates are met is integral to the larger construction picture. This being the case, construction fatigue can unfortunately result.
Construction fatigue is a real issue that can manifest itself during the course of a project. Construction fatigue can negatively affect the entire exterior restoration project team, including: building owners, property managers, board members, restoration consultants and of course the contractors. This fatigue can thwart the effectiveness of progress meetings and lead to hard feelings, resentment and blame overshadowing collaborative efforts. Worst of all, it can even make the work environment unsafe.
Whether it’s part of a pre-planned construction schedule, a way to make up for project delays, changes in the scope of work, appeasing building occupants, or an eleventh-hour client request, contractors are often required to work extended hours, weekends and holidays. This accrued overtime can threaten the work/life balance of the crew and cost the Contractor more over the duration of a project. If the scope of work is increased without realistic and proportional changes in the schedule and compensation to those providing the services, additional pressure will be leveraged on the team, and especially the contractor.
Weather is the most uncontrollable dynamic that can restrict the flow of an exterior restoration project. Once winter settles in and the temperatures stay consistently around and/or below freezing, the types of exterior restoration work that can be performed is very limited. Some projects must even be shut down until spring arrives. Though the Farmer’s Almanac has historically published a remarkably accurate annual forecast system, no one really knows what will transpire until it happens. A two to three-week outlook by weather forecasters can be quite inaccurate, but it’s typically still the best-known tool that exists. There are proactive ways to improve the probability of achieving construction goals in the fall and winter season and avoiding the stresses of missing critical construction goals. Adding an adequate number of inclement weather days into the project schedule to account for projected lost time is one way to avoid construction fatigue.
Maintaining a consistent number of workmen and properly phasing a project are also necessary to achieve mile markers. Work crew shortages place stress on available workers to achieve the same amount of production with less manpower. Project foremen responsible for the daily progress must also be diligent to ensure project goals are met. Since many restoration product systems are temperature sensitive, cold weather limits the type of work that can be performed. It’s important to keep this in mind when scheduling and or phasing a project There are methods to permit construction on cold weather days, when daytime temperatures are well above freezing but nighttime temperatures dip well below the freezing mark. Construction controls such as heating blankets and temporary heated enclosures like construction tents, or wood framed structures may afford contractors the means to work during milder winter days, while protecting and maintaining temperature sensitive installations until cure times are achieved.
Unanticipated delays and challenges during the course of a construction project are not always controllable by the project team. However, well organized progress meetings, smart project planning and proper phasing, competent and consistent man-power, and effective communication among all involved parties are the best practices to lessen or stave off construction fatigue. The frayed nerves and friction that are inevitably par for the course during construction will quickly dissipate when a unified team successfully delivers an end product that meets or exceeds performance expectations.