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By Rose Morrison

All construction projects pose logistical challenges to overcome. However, those obstacles are arguably even more prominent when working in the city center. Here are some of the most common necessities to address and some possible solutions. 

Traffic disruptions 

Construction projects often require temporarily rerouting traffic. Such changes can cause backups that become particularly bothersome for people on tight schedules, such as delivery drivers and construction workers.

Similarly, periods of heavy traffic could make it difficult or impossible for people delivering goods or operating heavy machinery to reach the site or any surrounding addresses due to the congestion. 

SOLUTIONS: One often-used solution is to time delivered goods and machinery usage to occur when traffic is typically at its lowest levels, such as during the night. In one instance involving construction for a health care facility, part of the project involved pouring a 6-foot foundation mat slab. Overseers understood that the number of concrete trucks required brought additional logistical challenges. They ultimately scheduled several overnight concrete pours after engaging with nearby community members. 

A logistical reality to remain mindful of is that surrounding businesses may need deliveries near the same times the construction company schedules them or uses service providers with huge equipment. Thus, coordinating with company owners or residents appropriately can minimize delivery delays for the project or customers near the construction site. 

Another possibility may be to arrange for nighttime deliveries. The main benefit of that option is that goods arrive when there are most likely fewer vehicles on the streets. The delivery driver can achieve higher productivity along a route and find a parking place faster than usual.

Maintaining correct conditions when paving

Well-paved roads have a direct impact on the flow of goods. For example, if a delivery driver continually encounters streets filled with potholes or in poor condition, his or her overall productivity likely will decrease. 

Keeping hot asphalt at the right temperature until it reaches the construction site is one concern. If the mixture starts cooling during transit, it will lose malleability. That issue could negatively impact the bonding process. 

Temperature also comes into play during the compaction process. The material must get rolled at the correct temp. Sensors within the compactors help ensure that takes place. However, the paver that works directly ahead of the compactor cannot move too fast. If that happens, the roller will move across the material too late, compromising its bond and possibly causing potholes later. 

Selecting the right compactor for the area is also a pressing concern for inner-city construction. For example, some compactors are pulled behind tractors, but that’s not always feasible in some densely populated areas. Thus, a cylindrical compactor may work best in narrow spaces due to its small design. 

SOLUTIONS: Officials in Germany recently released paving rules that will become standard this year. The Quality in Road Construction in Baden-Württemberg 4.0 (QSBW 4.0) approach brings digitization to paving temperature control. The standards concern performing periodic temperature checks and sending the data to all applicable parties. Some solutions rely on infrared cameras that scan the paving surface.

Implementing a solution like this one brings numerous logistical benefits. It increases project productivity levels and boosts the paved surface’s life span. However, anyone who regularly travels through an area scheduled for paving work will appreciate this approach too. 

For example, a delivery driver might receive an app alert from his or her dispatcher about ongoing paving in progress, urging the driver to take a different route. That’s only a minor inconvenience provided that this happens efficiently. However, if the project gets behind schedule, the people who normally travel through the construction area on their trips will deal with more challenges as the work continues. 

Incoming deliveries coupled with lack of storage space

Another logistical challenge of construction projects in highly populated areas is that the teams may lack places to store delivered goods until they need to use them. 

If the project involves adding an extension to an existing building, construction workers might use an area not subject to the addition as a temporary storage area. However, that’s not always an option, especially when the construction occurs on entirely new buildings or the structure does not have a large enough space to house delivered goods. 

Consider the example of a hotel that stays open while construction workers build an additional wing. In that case, the business probably does not have a spacious and unused area to serve as a place to store supplies. 

Items like lumber or metal that are not protected from the elements could get ruined. Similarly, if the site is in a heavily trafficked area and not well-secured, it may become a vandalism or theft target. 

SOLUTIONS: Researchers involved with two urban construction projects on office buildings in Krakow, Poland, wrote an academic paper about several challenges they encountered. One of them concerned finding a place to keep all incoming supplies and coordinate when those items arrived. 

The solution was to form a logistics department. People working in it communicated directly with construction site managers and handled matters such as delivery times and locations. The logistics team also organized a method whereby deliveries came sequentially and matched the construction pace. That way, workers could use the delivered goods immediately rather than storing them somewhere. 

Scheduling deliveries meant timing them for when traffic levels were the most manageable. It also ensured enough construction team members were available to immediately begin incorporating the delivered goods into the ongoing building work. 

This setup vastly limited the possibilities for ordering supplies before it was time to use them. A small storage area was available to the construction team, but it was a significant distance away from the main work location. A related consideration was what to keep there. That’s because it may become counterproductive to store bulky items that are too hard to bring back to the site.

Logistics professionals can’t predict the future, but they can assess the likelihood of specific problems emerging during an inner-city construction project. After doing that, they must assign responsibility to the correct party. For example, the supplier accepts the blame for out-of-stock items, but it’s the contractor’s problem if construction gets behind schedule despite having the necessary supplies. 

Planning for possible obstacles and ways to overcome them is a practical way to minimize logistical construction problems. Having a clear idea of how to tackle potential issues means the affected parties can act faster if these things arise.

Rose Morrison, the managing editor of Renovated, is most interested in sharing home projects and inspiration for the most novice of DIY-ers, values she developed growing up in a family of contractors.