How forecasting tools can mitigate rain delays on contracts

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Steve Goodwin and Andy Inchmore describe how advances in weather reporting could reduce contractual risks.

The risk of a severe weather event impacting construction sites is growing increasingly real. For longer-term projects it seems it is no longer if it’s going to happen, but when.

But many contractors and subcontractors are simply not aware of the complex issues involved in making a successful compensation event claim nor able to deal with the difficulties in evidencing their proper entitlement.

In recent times, the UK has experienced extremes in weather. In March this year, the Met Office warned that record-breaking rainfall like that seen on 3 October 2020 could be 10 times more likely by 2100. Rainfall following Storm Alex made 3 October 2020 provisionally the UK’s wettest day in a daily series stretching back to 1891. Once considered a one-in-300-year event, Met Office research found that by 2100, under a medium emissions scenario, that level of extreme daily rainfall could be seen every 30 years.

The Met Office has, for quite some time, been seeking to make things easier for the construction industry. In response to industry needs, it developed “Location-Based Reports”, providing weather information from more than 3,500 locations across the UK that more accurately reflect onsite conditions.

These reports provide more features and advantages than the previous weather observation stations, including up to 16 weather parameters, with wind as standard, making them not only useful for NEC clause 60.1 (13) entitlements but for a variety of building contracts.

Improvements in supercomputing capacity, in combination with virtual observation, has increased available relevant data from 35 to 3,500 years of winters, using what is known as the UNSEEN method.

The weather can impact upon a project at every stage, from designing a building to withstand changing climatic conditions to programming work and hiring expensive equipment. It can potentially have the biggest impact upon delivering a project on time and on budget.

But better Met Office tools and data that can assist with the production of compensation event assessments are making it easier to establish and present the facts post event.  Furthermore, those same tools and data can assist during the project planning and delivery stages to mitigate potential future events before they occur.

The Location-Based Reports are available in two formats giving the location-based monthly planning average or the location-based monthly downtime summary.

The monthly planning average, looking over a 30-year period, will provide a clear picture of what seasonal “norms” can be expected at a site during a project which will assist when planning works.

The monthly downtime summary reports provided with long term averages and 1-in-10 year values make it possible to match downtime against the recorded weather for the requested months and identify when conditions fall outside the normal parameters.

Can contractors now plan a project so that weather disruption is minimised? Intelligent planning tools are now available to help efficiently plan operations, manage health and safety risks and reduce costs during the project delivery phase. The Met Office’s VisualEyes software is a web-based weather alert system that enables users to choose the forecast and real-time weather elements.

In addition, timeframes out to 14 days in the future can be selected and alert thresholds can be set according to particular risk profiles.

It could be that in the future, clients, contractors and subcontractors might proactively submit early warnings based on forecasted weather events. Surely this can only be a positive step in the right direction. This kind of data must also benefit those pricing and assessing compensation events, especially the problematic and often contentious contractor’s risk element of the quotation(s).

Steve Goodwin is director and Andy Inchmore a consultant at GVE Commercial Solutions.

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