Mild winters speeding major construction projects

By Reed Samson, NewsNetNebraska

Projects big and small are under construction in Lincoln, Neb., but thanks to a couple of mild winter seasons the city’s bandages may soon be coming off.

One of the biggest projects Lincoln has seen in recent memory is the rising Pinnacle Bank Arena in the Haymarket area, which is to be finished by the time of the first concert on Sept., 13, according to project manager John Henshaw of Kiewit Building Group.  Keeping the massive project on schedule takes a colossal effort and weather, particularly in Nebraska, is the number one deterrent to finishing construction by deadline.

“It (weather) didn’t hurt last year,” Henshaw said.  “There wasn’t much precipitation and the weather was pretty good.”

Ed Leach worked as an architect for the arena and said last winter’s mild temperature was especially important for Henshaw and his crew, because they finished doing exterior and dirt work.  This year all that remains is interior work.

The average temperature in December of 2011 was approximately 40 degrees, which is 6 degrees higher than the average in 1990.  That about freezing average, coupled with dry weather, helps reduce the amount of frost in the ground, giving construction companies an extended work season.

Shaun Jones, a project engineer for Kiewit Building Group, is in charge of construction of a fraternity house on 17th and Q streets., where the old Nebraska Federal Credit Union once stood.  Kiewit rebuilt the credit union across the street on 17th and P, then began construction of the fraternity house on the old credit union’s location, which is scheduled to be done by June 28.

Jones credits this year’s mild winter season for finishing the Nebraska Federal Credit Union ahead of schedule.  He said the weather allowed them to consistently work through the winter and continue dirt work.

“We’re not really too sensitive to temperature, but frost is a concern during dirt work,” he said.

Jones said most of the dirt work for the fraternity house project took place late December through mid January.

“Our schedule was hindered a little bit by the weather, but we finished dirt work pretty fast and now we really only have to worry about the wind for the guys finishing the roof,” Jones said.

Some climatologists suggest our recent winter weather may be an indicator for how the season may change in the future.

“With the expected changes in climate in the coming decades, it is likely that such rogue seasons (especially on the warm side) will occur more often,” said Bob Oglesby, University of Nebraska-Lincoln professor who specializes in climate change said.

A shorter winter season sounds too good to be true, particularly for construction companies looking for a longer work season, but that may be where Nebraska’s weather is headed.

“A shorter winter season, if it keeps occurring year after year is very much what we would expect due to climate change,” Oglesby said.