Ottawa

How Ottawa's milder winter is helping contractors get more work done

Those who work in construction are praising Ottawa's milder winter this year as it's meant more work has been getting done.

Warmer temperatures help with productivity, says Ottawa Construction Association

A roofer places shingles on a roof in winter.
Byron Bustillo, owner of BB's Roofing, has been able to continue work on a large project all winter. (Jean Delisle/CBC)

Ottawa's mild winter may have shortened the canal skating and skiing season, but it's had some perks for those who work in the construction industry. 

This winter has been mostly mild, without hitting –20 C yet, and dry.

According to Environment Canada, Ottawa has so far seen 96.3 centimetres of winter precipitation such as snow and ice pellets since Dec. 1. During the same timeframe last year, Ottawa saw 222.1 centimetres. 

For the most part, the Ottawa Construction Association said construction can continue all year but extreme weather can affect how much work gets done.

"It just impacts productivity and impacts performance of equipment. So what you're seeing is they can deliver more construction per day when it's easygoing than when it's extreme," said John DeVries, its president and general manager.

"You can imagine with the major snowfall, you've got to start with the clearing away things and moving things, so you really get less construction done when you gotta spend an hour or two in the morning getting everything ready," he said.

A man stands in front of a sign with the logo of the organization he leads.
John DeVries, president and general manager of the Ottawa Construction Association, says warmer weather in winter means more productivity and savings on construction sites. (Ashley Burke/CBC)

That productivity trickles down to the actual worker, DeVries said, because their bodies can get more done when the temperature isn't as frigid.

There could be savings on top of that productivity. 

"The major construction sites … they'll have tarped-in areas for heating, so I imagine there's a significant saving in propane heating going on this year."

It's a different dynamic in the summer if temperatures are 14 degrees above average, as they're forecast to be Thursday night.

Ontario's comprehensive 2023 climate report points to several challenges to the provinces construction industry and its workers because of climate change: rising temperatures, extreme weather, water shortages and the trickle-down effects on the supply chain, for a few examples.

It's one sector where those scientists say taking meaningful action to cut emissions would keep risks from rising much further.

Contractors praising easy winter 

In the city's west end, roofer Byron Bustillo has been busy working on a large project for the past few months. 

This winter, he's been able to work most days. Last year, Bustillo says he could only work two to three days a week — sometimes less.

"Technically, I would have had to have stopped at some point during the winter because things start to break," he said 

"Whereas this winter, it's just been mild, so we've just been continuing and looks like we'll be done just before the springtime."

Bustillo said the lack of frozen precipitation makes his job a lot safer too. 

"It just makes it slippery, like you're on a rope … So when it's slippery like that, you really just gotta take things slow," he said.

It's not just those who work outdoors. Severe Contracting takes on residential construction jobs, specializing in basements, second dwellings and custom builds.

a man stands in a half finished basement
Steeven Severe, operations manager and CEO of Severe Contracting, says he's been able to avoid pushing some jobs to the summer because of the mild weather. (Francis Ferland/CBC)

This winter, the company has been able to continue jobs it usually would have to push to the summer.  

"We usually stop cutting windows out in November, but because of the mild weather, we can continue to do it basically up to now," said Steeven Severe, operations manager and CEO

Severe said he's also been able to complete second entrances, interlock and outdoor fixing work, all thanks to the mild winter.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Natalia is the climate and weather reporter for CBC Ottawa. Previously she worked for CBC in P.E.I. and Newfoundland and Labrador.

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