There are a lot of factors that play key roles in bringing construction projects from the development phase to a ribbon-cutting ceremony. Survey completion, site design, and plan preparation, local and state permitting, and of course, construction season all present various challenges.
Weather is one variable that not only affects land surveying, but also construction schedules.
Regional Weather Effects
Climates that are relatively warm and sunny lend themselves quite nicely to year-round surveying and construction with minimal weather impacts. Sure, you’ll get the occasional rainstorm that forces surveyors inside for the day. Rain also prevents road paving and other sitework activities (if the rain is hard enough). But those delays are temporary.
Winter weather, and all that goes with it, can really inhibit surveying and construction in areas that have varying seasons. Here are some of the ways winter weather wreaks havoc on land surveying and construction.
Snow: Surveying can be time-consuming enough depending on the size of the parcel and the level of detail required for site design. Now add two feet of snow. Everything just got harder.
- Searching for existing lot monumentation.
- Accurately depicting contours whether the land is developed or undeveloped.
- Finding signs of existing utilities: gas gates, water gates, manholes.
- Locating existing edges of pavement.
Snow affects construction differently. Site contractors aren’t performing earthwork activities, pouring foundations, or paving parking lots during the height of winter.
Instead, they’ll typically only deal with snow conditions in March, late November, and possibly early December. If the weather is mild enough, site contractors can work into December. They might wind up plowing their sites before resuming work.
Overall, once the ground freezes and snow accumulates for good, site work shuts down for the season.
Ice: With snow, sometimes comes ice. Ice doesn’t pile up the way snow does. But a coating of ice presents different problems for surveying.
Solid, thick ice that doesn’t break easily makes it challenging to get accurate ground elevation shots. You’ll also have difficulty in locating surface limits such as parking lot edges of pavement, edges of walkways and sidewalks, and roadways. Field surveyors will have to spend time breaking ice simply to reach the limits of their survey. That is extra time, and extra dollars spent on a job. A budget buster for sure!
Ice can present similar challenges as snow does for construction. But there’s a good chance that construction has shut down for the season by the time there’s a storm with ice potential.
Seasons of Surveying and Construction
Land surveying and construction are year-round activities regardless of the challenges brought about by winter. But each is a little different depending on the season.
Surveyors don’t mind working in the Spring. In fact, it’s a relief to transition from a challenging winter to better ground conditions that make searching for monuments, setting monuments, and locating structures easier. Though, a wet, rainy Spring can bring about some washout days.
Spring construction is mostly about excavation. Contractors spend all winter lining up jobs and scheduling their season. As soon as the ground thaws, they’re digging.
Once the typical Spring weather arrives, it’s full steam ahead for both industries.
Summer is ideal for surveying and construction. The only downside for either industry is the elements. Specifically, the heat and the sun. Stay hydrated and apply sunblock.
As summer moves to Fall and the slightly cooler weather arrives, there is still plenty of prime weather conditions for both. The air will become a bit crisper as the oppressive heat days become few and far between.
With winter mere weeks away, contractors will have two tasks on their minds: paving and pouring foundations.
Late Fall/Early Winter
This is when work becomes challenging for contractors. Homebuilders will look to pour as many foundations as possible. This sets them up for winter work. Once the ground freezes, they really don’t want to risk a foundation pour. Instead, they get the foundation poured, enclose the building, and then they can work inside all winter long.
Paving is also up against the weather clock. Hot mix asphalt needs to remain at a certain temperature – pushing 300 degrees – from the time it leaves the plant to the time it is poured on a road, parking, or driveway. Once the weather becomes too cold, the asphalt cools too fast and you won’t be able to pave properly. Cities and towns tend to set a final date when paving can occur. A mild Fall will result in paving past Thanksgiving.
Winter surveying really doesn’t become a challenge until substantial snowfalls. Yes, the temperature becomes much colder. But surveyors dress accordingly when they know they’ll be outside for eight hours.
At this point, site contracting has probably shut down for the year. But indoor construction continues – be it residential homes or commercial and industrial buildings. That’s why getting foundations poured and enclosed is so critical.
Pushing Back Against Winter Weather
If surveyors and contractors don’t plan accordingly, winter weather will cause delays in the overall project. That can happen upon winter’s arrival or if it lags into late March. Any substantial work stoppage disrupts a tight construction schedule. That means a delayed opening. And there is a lot of money on the line in land development projects.
But what can be done to combat the elements when you can’t control the elements?
Technology. Specifically, AirWorks.
Land surveyors can implement AirWorks’ AI-powered technology to speed up feature extraction. They can leverage that technology to get planimetric/topographic basemaps at multiple stages of the project.
Here’s how it works:
A land surveying/civil engineering firm acquires a proposed commerce building project that has a tight timeframe. A late Fall/early winter survey, site design and permitting over the winter, and the contractor starts work as soon as the ground thaws.
The survey firm then uses UAVs/UASs to fly the site while the field surveyors perform the boundary on the ground. The field work is completed prior to any inclement winter weather. AirWorks can then process the existing conditions of the site and produce basemaps that much faster. The civil engineer is off and running with the site design and local permitting. And the general contractor can lock in the site work contractor to start as soon as weather conditions allow.
When construction timeframes are tight and you’re racing against winter weather, let AirWorks help you.