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How Could Climate Change Affect Construction Conditions?


Posted on January 13th, 2022

excavator on jobsite with sunrise in background.

Climate change is affecting the world and the way we work in several ways. Unfortunately, these changes are impossible to ignore, especially within construction.

Weather impacts construction jobsite plans significantly. For example, construction crews may need to extend work hours to compensate for extreme temperatures.

To mitigate the impact, many construction companies have been doing their part by seeking out durable, sustainable, and innovative materials like synthetic concrete or embracing construction technology that helps keep projects environmentally-friendly.

Although not every construction company can change all of its processes to prevent climate change from worsening, any action is better than none. The first step to take is to educate yourself on how climate change impacts construction companies and the lives of those around them.

Impact on construction projects

The negative impacts of climate change vary, but the effects on construction projects are substantial.

According to Dr. Sergey Sundukovskiy, climate change is causing major economic concerns for the construction and building sector due to extreme weather events that result in severe flooding and drought, damaged buildings, and project disruptions. “The estimated cost of weather-related delays in the United States alone approaches $4 billion,” says Dr. Sundukovskiy.

To help reduce the effects of climate change, many contractors are turning to green construction materials. While this is a necessary step towards better, more sustainable construction, going green generally involves additional accounting for construction materials and project costs. Compared with traditional buildings, green buildings are more expensive to build.

Additionally, unforeseen costs could arise, such as an increase in workers’ compensation cases when employees are exposed to extreme weather conditions.

Even if there aren’t more workers’ compensation cases, the cost of insurance for projects significantly increases in extreme weather conditions. This was demonstrated in the third quarter of 2021, when natural disasters caused estimated insurance losses of $48.5 billion.

The construction industry is heavily dependent on skilled labor. If extreme weather conditions make workers uncomfortable or unsafe, the project could be delayed or possibly stopped altogether.

The unfortunate reality of climate change is that more weather-related disasters will continue to increase in frequency and intensity worldwide.

To offset the risk that climate change presents, you must create the safest jobsite possible for your crew.

Safeguarding against extreme weather conditions

Although implementing green construction practices is important, the safety of your construction crew should be your priority, especially since climate change won’t get better overnight.

The danger during extreme weather conditions is typically due to inadequate or insufficient precautionary and protection measures. If you think your jobsite is at risk for extreme weather conditions, it's time to take action by involving all employees in safety meetings and plans.

A successful construction site action plan for emergencies starts with understanding the risks and hazards that could happen on a project site, and then identifying ways to overcome them. It should be a detailed, written plan that clearly defines everyone’s roles and what they’re expected to do in the event of an emergency.

Keep the plan in several easy-to-find locations so it’s accessible to all your employees, and share it in the form of a checklist for your team to review regularly. You should also maintain a digitized checklist or safety plan, as this will give employees access to this vital information if they’re unable to find or safely access a physical copy.

Here are a few examples of emergency protocols you can add to your plan:

  • Implement a warning system that alerts workers of an impending emergency. The system can utilize loudspeakers, flashing lights, text messages, and emails.

  • Create an efficient evacuation plan that includes first aid stations, designated meeting zones, and vehicles. You must provide evacuation routes so that workers know where to go when an emergency occurs.

A well-written evacuation plan—and regular review of the plan with workers—will help you avoid many workplace injuries, fatalities, and other problems that can occur if workers are not prepared for emergencies related to extreme weather.

Green building initiatives

Once you’ve addressed the immediate concerns caused by climate change, the next step is to find ways to prevent it. Although greener materials cost more, there are plenty of resources and assistance organizations available to help construction companies promote sustainability.

The Green Building Initiative (GBI) helps individuals and companies adopt ecological, sustainable, non-toxic, and eco-friendlier construction practices. GBI’s mission is “to reduce climate impacts by improving the built environment through education, standards, and assessments developed by an inclusive and collaborative global network.”

GBI has three goals:

  • Conserve resources

  • Reduce energy consumption

  • Enhance building efficiency

The purpose of the initiative is to raise awareness of the benefits of building more structures with non-toxic materials. In addition to the environmental benefits, GBI also promotes economic growth and stability by reducing construction waste and energy usage.

Pros of green building

There are many benefits to green building, including:

  • Lower energy bills: Green building saves energy, which means lower utility bills. Green buildings are also more environmentally friendly.

  • Lower carbon footprint: Green buildings are built with fewer materials, which means less fuel is consumed to transport the materials. This may help slow climate change by limiting carbon dioxide emissions. The construction itself uses sustainable practices that cause less pollution than traditional construction. Green building resources such as recycled or reclaimed materials also require less energy to manufacture.

  • Lower maintenance: Green buildings require less maintenance than traditional buildings.

Cons of green building

Some cons of green building include:

  • Higher costs: The upfront costs of green buildings are higher than non-green buildings.

  • Limited choice of contractors: Some contractors have not yet learned how to do green construction, which requires skills that are relatively new and different compared to traditional construction projects.

Despite the challenges associated with green building initiatives, they’re often seen as the lesser of two evils, particularly in comparison to the long-lasting impacts of climate change.

To compel more construction crews to take the initiative, the U.S. government has established tax deductions to offset some of the costs associated with sustainable building materials.

How can better project management help?

Modern construction project management software can help companies both save costs and track green building practices by giving project stakeholders better visibility into project progress. Raken’s construction daily reporting software makes it easy to monitor the work that’s being completed each day to ensure compliance and catch potential issues early.

Most government initiatives that promote green construction require detailed data to be submitted before any tax deductions, certifications, or other benefits are awarded. The reports generated by Raken are easy to organize and review for this purpose.

Finally, Raken helps keep workers safe with in-app weather updates. Project managers can stay on top of weather conditions and reschedule work with advanced notice.

Learn more about Raken

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