The Effects of Climate Change on Construction

By Morgan Grant | 01/31/2018

There is little room for error within a construction site, and sometimes it can be beyond your control. Perhaps one of the most recent concerns is the effect that climate change is having on the construction industry.

According to NASA, the global sea level has risen about eight inches in the last century, with the rate in the past two decades nearly doubling. NASA also states that the number of record high temperature events in the United States has been increasing, along with increasing numbers of intense rainfall.

With temperature levels rising, and weather becoming more violent and unpredictable, this can only mean chaos for an industry that relies on weather predictability and clear skies. 

Why Climate Change Impacts Worksite Safety

The #1 concern with the climate change is worksite safety. Unpredictable rain and flooding can lead to deteriorating wood and slippery surfaces, increasing the risk of recordable injuries and creating unsafe working conditions. Higher temperatures can cause heat stress and lead to heat stroke, heat exhaustion, and even death. You can take steps to protect workers in these harsher working conditions, but even with preparation, the biggest threat is unpredictability.

As temperatures rise, so do your out-of-pocket costs. Higher temperatures create longer curing times for concrete, which extends construction time and skyrockets costs. Economists estimate that bad weather impacts $3.8 trillion a year in the United States alone. With the increasingly fickle weather caused by climate change, this number will only continue to grow.

How Climate Change Impacts Worksite Building Materials 

Another concern for the construction industry is the effect climate change is having on building materials and current structures. Extreme changes in temperatures cause materials like brick and wood to decay and crack faster. A case study done by CSIRO in 2015 called “climate impacts on concrete infrastructure,” found that “increased concentrations of atmospheric carbon dioxide (due to climate change) – particularly in urban areas – mean greater penetration of carbon dioxide into concrete.” As a result, there is a high demand for new types of building materials and sustainable construction strategies to reduce the effects of climate change in future structures.

Penda, a construction firm in Beijing, proposed a livable structure made completely out of bamboo to fill the growing need for sustainability. The “Rising Canes” project started in 2015 during Beijing Design Week as a push to sell bamboo as a versatile construction material. Penda built a structural system made entirely out of bamboo and rope that can be continuously added to, section by section, over the span of ten years. According to Penda, the bamboo development is expected to house a population of 20,000 people by 2023.

Upside of Climate Change: A Longer Construction Season

We may not be able to reverse climate change, but we can adapt to it—and climate change isn’t all bad for the construction industry. Construction Business Owner tells us that climate change means warmer winters and a prolonged construction season for many states. And as the pressure grows to reduce our carbon footprint, new solutions and innovations are introduced within the construction industry each year.

You can’t control the weather, but you can take precautionary steps to protect your workforce, rain or shine. Why not take action on what you can control? Concentra's injury prevention and treatment services can help you avoid workplace injuries, or treat them quickly if an accident occurs. Our work health experts will help you develop an injury care plan that's right for your business. So take action – talk to an expert from Concentra.