Construction in colder climates presents significant challenges for any contractor. Our current project, The Arbors at Brighton Park, located in Bloomfield, Connecticut, is a great example.
The project includes new construction of four apartment buildings with 132 units and a clubhouse. In a southern location, this project would be complete within 12-14 months. However, due to the complications anticipated by colder winter weather, this project is slated for a 16-18 month timeline.
Aside from the discomfort of colder temperatures for the workers, winter construction poses several problems. The challenges can delay delivery of the project and increase the overall budget as a result of shorter workdays in the winter when the sun usually set by 5 p.m., icy conditions that hamper site access, and the need for snow removal. Additionally, precautions must be taken to keep the building site at a temperature conducive for mixing concrete, stone and masonry work, and to keep water lines from freezing.
From the first stages of construction, Live Oak’s crews adapted the building process to reflect the location’s cold climate. Crews constructed frost walls to ensure the building would be on secure footing throughout its life cycle. Constructed four feet into the ground and surrounded with insulation, these walls will protect the slab from moisture and frost in the coming winters.
During construction, crews are carefully monitoring outdoor temperatures. Special care is taken whenever water is introduced to concrete or mortar for stone and masonry work, which can cure too quickly or freeze in very cold temperatures. Crews plan for these temperatures accordingly by using hot water to mix concrete. When temperatures fall below freezing, they may also add calcium chloride to the mix. Calcium chloride works as an anti-freeze agent for concrete and will slow the rate in which the material cures.
Whenever possible, outdoor workspaces and scaffolds are tented with visqueen and warmed with small portable propane heaters. Because the buildings in The Arbors project are so large, tenting the entire workspace is impossible. Instead, crews sectioned off smaller workspaces as needed. This process ensures that the air temperature is manageable for workers and allows them to work as productively as possible during the shorter winter days. Once drywall is in place, heating the space becomes less problematic and larger propane or natural gas heaters are used to warm the entire building by sections. This allows a normal process in the drying of texture, paint and adhesives.
Materials stored outdoors at the site are placed on 9” wooden pallets or stone that is brought in. During a normal winter, snow can come in waves of 4-6” or more at a time. The higher pallets prevent materials such as lumber from sitting directly on the ground in snow and ice. If these materials are not protected, they can freeze directly to the ground, sustain damage and become unusable.
Live Oak Contracting plans to deliver this project by January of 2017. While we do not know what the early winter months of 2016 have in store, advance planning and preparation will allow on-site crews to work as many days as possible and mitigate the effects of cold temperatures on the site, staff, and materials. Our efforts should ensure that this project remains on-schedule and within budget throughout the next year.
When working in challenging environments, industry expertise is a key factor in project success. Contact Live Oak Contracting for an experienced partner in the construction process.