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Mild winter in Calgary results in extra construction time and cost savings for construction industry

Mild winter in Calgary results in extra construction time and cost savings for construction industry
Mild winter in Calgary results in extra construction time and cost savings for construction industry

Calgary’s unusually warm weather appears to be taking a turn for the worse, with a cold spell predicted to loom. But the construction industry has made good use of the mild winter so far.

According to industry experts, the heat provides safer working conditions, extra time to complete projects and even significant cost savings.

Bill Black, president of the Calgary Construction Association, says the typical cold also brings challenges.

“When you get to like -15, -20 (Celsius) and there’s some wind chill, it’s just unsafe. In most cases, there will be no work on the site and in some cases sites will be closed until it’s deemed safe,” Black said.

That was not the case this winter.

According to Environment and Climate Change Canada, Calgary experienced its warmest December and second-warmest year on record in 2023.

According to Black, the recent warmth has made some of those operations possible and others easier.

“For example, concrete is much easier to apply in this weather — there aren’t as many measures needed — and the same goes for roofing and cladding.”

Bill Black is the president of the Calgary Construction Association.

Bill Black, president of the Calgary Construction Association, says the extra few months of warmth have allowed many projects to progress well. (CBC)

In addition, productivity is higher when people work with fewer layers of clothing and don’t have to rely on temporary heating to keep buildings and workers warm, he says.

It also means that employees have had a few extra months to catch up on unexpected delays and, in some cases, even get ahead of schedule.

According to Black, it is especially beneficial for hourly workers.

“They’re getting hours of work that they probably wouldn’t have been able to get under normal winter conditions. So it’s a bonus for the workers, it’s more compensation for them. It helps them with their earning capacity and it shows that this is not an industry that closes down in the winter.”

The weather brings cost savings

Shameer Gaidhar, chair of the Calgary Inner City Builders Association and president of Millenium Plus Homes, calls it an extended building season.

He and his team are working overtime as long as the weather permits and as a result, he says some projects are running ahead of schedule.

“It gives me the opportunity to deliver the product and to sell some rental units so we can create homes for people,” Gaidhar said.

Shameer Gaidhar is the president and CEO of Millenium Plus Homes. He is also the president of the Calgary Inner City Builders Association. He says builders need more certainty about the construction approval process from city hall.

Shameer Gaidhar is the president and CEO of Millenium Plus Homes. He is also the chairman of the Calgary Inner City Builders Association. (Bryan Labby/CBC)

At the same time, it also delivers significant cost savings.

He says heating is a significant expense when building a house in the winter.

“We’ve been really lucky in a way because we haven’t had huge heating bills and the heating costs haven’t been high because the weather has been really good.”

Gaidhar says working through the winter also saves money.

“It’s $500 a day for each project that’s sitting vacant,” he said. “We still have to pay property taxes. We still have to maintain the property, we still have insurance, we still have opportunity costs, we still have interest expenses — all of that.”

However, he says many workers are overtired from working non-stop to build houses, even though that is still possible.

Gaidhar says he is now preparing a number of buildings for the cold temperatures, with minimum temperatures expected to reach -23 degrees Celsius early next week, and that he accepts that he will face larger bills in the coming weeks.

“So far we have had more warm days than cold days.”