Harsh winter leading to delays on construction sites

WATCH: Ontario’s construction industry was handed a huge setback with extreme cold temperatures again this winter. Mark McAllister reports.

TORONTO – The harsh winter dealt a severe blow to Ontario’s construction industry as it kept workers out of the cold and away from the job.

Alan Vhinat, the senior vice-president of highrises at Great Gulf, said the high winds and low temperatures have forced his teams to take more time off from building the 76 storey condo at One Bloor East.

“We lose typically five to seven days because of cold temperatures and high winds. We have cranes that swing and hoists on the outside of a building that take materials, and men up the outside of the building,” Vhinat said.

READ MORE: 4 winter weather health risks

“So in order to keep everyone safe and to be able to operate those cranes and those hoists above a certain wind condition, you can’t actually operate those hoists and cranes. Below a certain temperature it’s just hard to physically work on the buildings.

Story continues below advertisement

Last month the coldest February on record at Pearson airport, with not a single day above zero degrees Celsius.  Construction workers, working in the elements for roughly eight hours a day, are sometimes kept inside or assigned different work when the temperatures plummet, forcing companies to fall behind schedule or make up the time on the weekends.

“We’re managing the time, but like I said, the systems that we’re using, we’re typically here on the weekends, on Saturdays, to try and make up some of that time as well,” Vhinat said.

Laura Cooper, an economist with Royal Bank, said new home construction in Canada slowed in February to its slowest pace since 2009. The bulk of that downturn, she said, was due to the extreme cold in Ontario and Atlantic Canada.

The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation says the seasonally adjusted rate fell from slightly more than 187,000 units in January to 156,276 in February.

The cold weather has also slowed city projects including the Queens Quay revitalization, forcing workers to delay some projects including the pouring of concrete for new roads.

READ MORE: Signs, prevention and what to do if you have frostbite

Guido Mazzone, the senior site superintendant at Tridel Ten York echoed Vhinat. He said Tridel has lost nearly two days a week to cold weather this winter, up significantly from the normal three to four days lost a month.

Story continues below advertisement

“The last two winters have been a little bit out of the ordinary for us,” Mazzone said. “We definitely play catch up. We probably incurred about 30 to 50 per cent more lost days than compared to a typical winter.”

The cold weather also affects whether the crews can actually do the job if they’re warm enough to work. Cold temperatures can make it difficult to bend rebar or pour concrete. Though Mazzone says there are ways to make it a little easier.

-With files from Mark McAllister and The Canadian Press

Sponsored content