Snow shuts down Greater Victoria construction sites

Construction projects requiring outdoor work are slowing or have been shut down until weather improves on Vancouver Island.

One factor is the difficulty in getting crews over the Malahat. “It’s impassable at times. Some of our members just tell their crews to stay home,” Rory Kulmala, chief executive of the Vancouver Island Construction Association, said Monday.

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Another is safety, he said. That’s a factor if crews are outdoors on jobs where there’s a lot of snow, poor visibility, wind and freezing temperatures.

“The construction companies in our region may have to shut their site down for a day or two,” Kulmala said.

Underground work can be halted because the ground is frozen or there is a lot of snow.

Higher temperatures are required for paving and pouring concrete, he said.

The situation is different for projects past early stages of development, where the work is primarily indoors, in which case workers can carry on.

These limitations are not typically long-lasting in Victoria. “This is going to last a couple of days, maybe a week and then we will resume,” Kulmala said.

If wind isn’t strong, work can continue on scaffolding and siding, but it is unlikely anyone will be putting on roofs, he said.

“Sometimes [companies] are able to shift their priorities or their work schedule to do things that really aren’t weather dependent, whether it is working in the office [or] doing some site cleaning. For the most part it is a short cycle. It is not catastrophic.”

John Knappett, head of Knappett Industries, said the weather has meant some projects are going at a slower pace or work has stalled because of the weather. Normally, several company vans move Cowichan and Nanaimo-based workers over the Malahat to Greater Victoria on workdays. That has been going on for a couple of years because of the shortage of local workers.

The vans did not run Monday and will probably not run today either, Knappett said.

“The other impact is a lot of our construction involves concrete. Concrete doesn’t do well in negative temperatures,” he said.

In the past week, the company has been affected by delays on several projects, Knappett said.

“The problem is the whole industry does the same thing so everybody’s got concrete trucks and concrete pumps and finishers lined up weeks in advance. And when we delay, so does every other contractor in town and now we are all looking for the next nice day and everything gets backed up.

“So the industry is getting backed up quite a bit in terms of delaying major projects.”

The addition to Royal Bay School in Colwood is affected because work is going on in the ground and footings have to be poured, Knappett said.

Townley Place, an affordable-housing project for the Greater Victoria Housing Society, is also being curtailed as is another non-profit project for Real Homes Development in Sidney. Each are at the stage where concrete would be poured if temperatures were higher.

Knappett is also building a new B.C. Transit maintenance yard in Duncan and another in Campbell River. “Both are very slow today. They are at that stage where they are working in the ground and on the concrete work, which is a problem.”

Construction is shut down on a Nanaimo seniors home on Prideaux Street because it is in its early stages where work is in the ground and requires concrete, Knappett said.

Knappett is building a water treatment plant for Parksville, but that is going ahead because it is at the stage where indoor work, such as mechanical and electrical work, is underway.

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