Weather can play a major Role in how and when a project gets built. Estimators should seriously consider this when bidding. The weather on a job site during the course of the contract could seriously impact your material deliveries, labor efficiency, labor force (people get sick more frequently during the colder seasons), scheduling and even when or if your company gets paid. No work performed could mean no progress billings, which could mean your company may not get paid until the bad weather clears.
Additionally, the actual start date of your contract may occur months after the actual bid date. This is especially true with projects bid in the late fall and early winter. In fact, even projects bid during January and February are subject to start delays, as everyone may need to wait for the project site to thaw out or at least for any unseasonal blizzards to stop.
Start delays can severely impact a contractor’s cash flow. My recommendation is to not bid solely on site work and new building projects. If possible, make sure you bid some interior remodels or jobs that are not heavy in outdoor installations.
Know the contract
Adverse weather conditions are accommodated for in most contracts. They typically are referred to as rain delays, acts of God, etc. The question estimators need to answer is “How many do I get?” and “For what types of conditions?”
These are important contract factors. If your company loses access to the job site, it definitely will impact your installation schedule. Loss of access could require your company to get more work done in less time than initially planned. This could require more electricians, which could lead to a need for more supervision, trucks, tools, water, cell phones, safety meetings, safety equipment, temporary lights, overtime shifts, food, housing (check for this in the contract, too), more of everything.
Unplanned, accelerated schedules could require the contractor to spend a lot more money than they estimated and possibly money they cannot reclaim through a change order. Knowing the weather delay clauses in a contract will help you determine if you can make a claim or issue a change order for weather delays and all of the cost impacts that come with them.
Watch the weather, track the job
During the construction process, estimators should work closely with their project management team, superintendents and foremen to analyze, know and track any delays caused by or impacts of weather. Many contractors keep building without realizing they could be collecting thousands of dollars in lost costs. Some think making the claim is too much trouble or a waste of time. Don’t be fooled. Know your contract. Claim what is rightfully yours.
Know the territory
We recently estimated a project in Iliamna, Alaska. On bid day, the temperature was –38°F. Our client’s shop is in Soldotna, Alaska, which is a pretty decent jaunt to Iliamna, much of it across wetlands and snowy roads. One of the things the client had to consider was how far electricians would have to travel to the job site and the method by which they would travel (plane, canoe, truck, dog sled).
Getting from here to there
Travel is always a consideration, regardless of the weather. But when you factor in 6 feet of snow or job sites in rural areas with access only by muddy roads, you may find a need to increase fuel costs and add more time for slower travel conditions. In fact, if the job site is in an area with heavy commuter traffic or in a major downtown metropolitan area, adding more drive time to your estimates is a must.
Collect information for bid day
So what information should estimators look for and provide to their boss on bid day? Here are a few suggestions:
• How many miles the office is from the project site
• When the project’s construction schedule starts and ends
• How many weather delay days are allowed for in the contract
• The long-term forecast for the ?job site area
• How many rain/snow days occurred during the scheduled contract months in previous years
• Road conditions to and from ?the job site
• How many toll bridges/roads are involved and what they cost each day, per vehicle
The Internet provides easy access to an endless amount of road and travel information and accurate and up-to-date weather data. Estimating the weather has gotten a lot easier and is much more accurate, give or take a few freak storm systems. Considering the latest global trends in weird weather, maybe you should expect the unexpected and factor this into your bid. The last thing you want is for your company to be left out in the cold on a soggy contract that’s been in the rain too long, neck deep in unbillable costs.
SHOOK is the president and chief estimator for his estimating company, TakeOff 16 Inc. He has worked in the electrical construction industry for more than 18 years. Reach him at 707.776.0800 or sfs@TakeOff16.com.