This week's weather has us thinking of one of the most frustrating aspects of construction in Boston: winter conditions. By that we mean not just the frustration of navigating icy, narrow roads, but also the significant added cost to a construction budget that will enable projects to keep moving along toward completion. In a perfect world, building would occur between April and October, and that is the schedule we always aim for with our projects. But so often, the complications of finalizing planning, permitting, and financing find us finally ready to build at the worst possible time of year. For the Eustis Street Fire House, construction began on November 1st. We plowed ahead (literally), hoping for a mild, short winter. We can still hope for short.
So what are the added costs? While roofing and framing can go forward in the cold, masonry and concrete work need 60 degrees or so to set, so heavy duty heaters are rented and the building and staging are enclosed in heavy tarps to try to warm the work area. Depending on the anticipated temperatures, heaters may need to remain on overnight and over weekends. Lights may need to be strung to illuminate the enclosed work area. And as work proceeds, the configurations of the protected area may move and change, which requires labor. Then there are the somewhat unpredictable costs of fuel and snow removal. Thankfully, the fire house is a tiny site, but even so, the winter conditions cost are projected to exceed $100,000 for the season.
One might reasonably ask if it would have been more sensible to just hold off construction start until spring to eliminate the costs associated with building in winter, but when the project all comes together, it's often necessary to begin immediately. By delaying we would not only lose the team's focus and momentum, but we also risk the possibility of escalating construction costs, losing a tax credit allocation and the investors who have committed to buying the tax credits, as well as our first floor tenant who is counting on moving in the spring. On the bright side, spring is a good season for HBI to move from the Old Corner Bookstore to the completed fire house, so at least we have that to look forward to.