Winter showed up here this week, and how long this opening salvo hangs around is uncertain. But it is a FIRST blast of likely a few more to come.
Among other things, it’s an annual urgent reminder that the construction season is winding to a close. Thus, we have that race to get building projects at least reasonably enclosed before the weather turns wintry and mostly downright unpleasant for the long haul.
For instance, I’ve been seeing this a lot the last few weeks — and literally on a daily basis — at Mount Marty College, where the Ruth Donohue First Dakota Fieldhouse is quickly arising from what was, not so long ago, a vacant field. There were times a few, warmer weeks ago when I saw workers toiling deep into the night, and the clang of girders and the beeping of heavy machinery rolling in reverse could be heard on several autumn evenings. Now, with the skeletal frame up, workers are putting up layers of walls, makeshift or otherwise, that will create something like an insular shell in which the crews can continue to work during the winter months,
This has been part of construction strategy in northern climates for as long as building projects and winter.
However, I sometimes wonder now if this approach is overrated.
It probably isn’t for the construction crews that get to work inside during the winter. Not only does it give them more tolerable conditions, but it also may sometimes mean the difference between working or possibly getting laid off for a few months.
My doubts are also based on things I’ve seen in recent years as I’ve come across various construction projects on their respective roads to reality. (By the way, road construction or general dirt work don’t fall under this for obvious reasons.) I’ve seen more construction crews willing to work through the cold, at least, once winter arrived.
A couple of years ago, for instance, I saw roofers working on some of the housing at Westbrook Estates on a day that was barely above zero. It had to be miserable up there, but they were accomplishing things all the same.
The biggest example may be Yankton’s water treatment plant project that has finally hit the home stretch along the river. I’ve been to that site several times across several seasons, and back when they were doing mostly exterior work, workers were ALWAYS out there, even on bitterly cold winter days, and even after a few inches of snow had fallen. Those guys slogged on through everything, and now they’re facing the final winter of the project with mostly interior work left in a building that now has thick walls that can withstand winter’s harsher elements. I’m actually happy for them.
Another factor about winter construction is that it’s not wintry every day. From a distance, we tend to view winter as one prolonged icebox. But in fact, there are typically a few nice days during the season, and each such day is an opportunity.
Ultimately, one can even conclude that construction “season” isn’t really a season anymore. (Again, road/dirt work must be excluded.) Many of the projects make some headway during the winter months, whether they are enclosed or not.
In that respect, construction season never really stops. And increasingly, winter seems to be treated like a miserable hurdle, not a frigid stop sign.
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