Keeping construction going in cold temps

Looking over I-196 from a Pioneer Construction site in the area of Michigan Street and Collage Avenue NE. (Feb. 12, 2015)

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — As temperatures dip far below freezing, people who have to work outside are taking safety precautions.

A Pioneer Construction site in the area of Michigan Street and Collage Avenue NE. (Feb. 12, 2015)
(The construction site.)

At Pioneer Construction site in the area of Michigan Street and College Avenue NE, construction workers were on the job Thursday, but staying out of the biting wind and cold. They did jobs on the east side of the structure that’s going up, using the building itself as a windbreaker.

“We have work to do on the west side of the building on the roof right now. We’re not doing that work today simply because of the cold weather,” said Christopher Kallemeyn, a Pioneer project supervisor.

He checks the weather, including wind direction and speed, and plans ahead.

Workers also constructed temporary rooms with heaters to act as warming stations. And, of course, layers are key.

“It is heavy, it is cumbersome. You’d rather be working in jeans and a T-shirt, but again it’s something you just adapt to and get used to,” Kallemeyn said.

It’s also more expensive to do a construction project in the winter.

“Today concrete is actually freezing,” Kallemeyn said.

Water was heated to more than 100 degrees in barrels so masons could keep going. An industrial heater was kept running nonstop so the concrete could be spread and then cure.

Even steel needed to be warmed a little so welders could forge lasting bonds.

“Just like it costs an average homeowner more money in the winter when it’s super cold out to heat their house, it costs us more time and money in the construction industry to heat our materials so we can continue working on the job,” Kallemeyn said. “People hire us because here at Pioneer, we know how to make these projects happen even though it’s a little more difficult in the winter.”

Why not just wait the cold and then get back to work when the weather gets warmer?

“Well, you tell my owners that we’re not going to finish on time,” Kallemeyn joked. “Right now, we’re going to finish ahead of schedule. We don’t want to lose that momentum. We’ve got to keep things rolling. The way that schedules are these days, we don’t have days to lose, so we’ve got to find a way to push through on the cold temps and continue no matter what stage of the project we’re in.”



Cold weather prompts warning from local officials

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