Readers Respond: Project schedules, costs feel the heat

The impacts of this summer’s record-setting extreme heat on construction workers have been obvious. 

Heat is the No. 1 cause of weather-related deaths in the U.S., according to the White House. In the absence of a federal standard on workplace heat safety, the Biden administration recently directed OSHA to issue a hazard alert for heat, and to do more to protect those who work outside. 

But we wanted to know: How are the soaring temperatures impacting project costs and schedules? Also, with summer traditionally being one of construction’s most productive seasons, is productivity taking a hit?

Respondents told us that is the case, with 80% of our unscientific sample noting a loss in productivity due to heat or other environmental impacts, such as wildfire smoke. 

Readers have adopted a variety of strategies for dealing with extreme temperatures, from working shorter hours to beginning work earlier. One respondent said they had shifted start times from 5:30 a.m. to 1:30 a.m. 

Another said to keep on track, they shifted their workday to start at 4 a.m. and end at noon, but that they still anticipated needing to work longer days in the fall once the weather cools again.  

Three out of five respondents also said their costs had increased. 

One respondent said the heat had resulted in slower work and adjusted work times. Another pinned a loss of productivity and a need to put in overtime to meet a contract deadline on extreme temperatures, since their teams had to pause work when the mercury climbed. A different reader noted increased absenteeism on very hot days. 

And one put this summer’s weather in context: “Florida is usually hot in the summer, but this has been the worst.”

One reader said given these changes, projects should be given allowances for extreme temperatures, much as they are for precipitation during the winter months. Contractors should be able to extend deadlines and be given “heat allowance in the project bid like for rainy days,” the reader wrote.

For others, however, while there was a decline in productivity, the hot temperatures weren’t as much of a hurdle as ice and snow. “More can get done in extreme heat vs. extreme cold,” one respondent wrote. 

Another said that summer is “continually the busiest time of the year. It still seems the long hours, weekends and shift work are part of the expectations for the summer season in this industry,” and said they expected that to continue.

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