The cost of parking lot procrastination.
By Andrew Musto
There is always a cost that comes with waiting until the last minute, but what is the true cost of missing the window of early summer parking lot work? The post-winter rush initially pushes facility managers to collect proposals at the beginning of the season, but as the never-ending “to do list” continues to grow, proactive parking lot planning gets pushed closer to the bottom of the pile — and then it’s September before you know it.
The seasonal nature of the construction industry is a known challenge to everyone, but as a retail facility manager, being proactive will ensure that you will get the long term outcome you were seeking in your capital or maintenance improvement. There are many factors that affect the proper time and season for executing projects. Choosing the right time for project delivery is the most important step to avoid business interference and scheduling issues with contractors, while also getting reduced costs and reduced liabilities.
Capacity is a natural constraint, especially in a seasonal business. Attempting to execute projects too early in the season runs a higher risk of inclement weather. But toward the end of the season there is less negotiation power and contractors typically become “less hungry.” As the season progresses and the overall scheduling availability window begins to close, there is less leeway to push schedules and get jobs in. So with all of these constraints, when is the prime time to target a parking lot program kick off? By scheduling parking lot work earlier on, retail managers avoid any scheduling constraints by securing a spot on the contractors scheduling board. Awards to be executed in early summer are the sweet spot for a contractor in terms of favorable weather and the contractor’s mentality surrounding beginning of the season pricing. June weather is ideal for parking lot work and the extended days open up more time slots for contractors to complete jobs within a day. When the season begins to wind down, the days get shorter and the weather gets colder, leading to less than ideal conditions for the performance of the materials. Planning at the right time will ensure the project will be done right the first time, that all stakeholders are on the same page and that the plan is 100% confirmed.
Along with solidifying a spot on the contractor’s schedule, early planning brings an advantage on aggressive pricing. The earlier a parking lot program is awarded and executed, the higher the likelihood of aggressive contractor pricing. Like many trades, all pavement-related scope pricing is made up largely of material prices. Material prices are driven by material price indexes, similar to oil, which means that when these indexes increase, so does the price of the materials. Throughout late summer and fall these indexes tend to increase — meaning the cost of material will increase as well. All material indexes can be tracked on states’ Department of Transportation websites, and it is important to stay updated on these fluctuations to avoid the price increase toward the end of the season. By locking in pavement work early in the season, you avoid late season material price escalations and volatility.
Even though pavement conditions may change over the winter, most of the assessment process can be done prior. In fact, fall and early winter is the best time to capitalize on the “down time” contractors have in the offseason. When contractors are not in the heat of the season, they are able to set aside time to review, plan and strategize for the upcoming months. The budget-building process consists of pavement condition evaluation within the context of existing budgets, property performance and the competitive landscape of the area. As budgets come together in late fall, the overall execution timeline can be laid out for early summer (of the following year), when the weather is safely agreeable for pavement work. Taking advantage of the down time and creating a plan ahead of time will reduce the chance of any missteps when pushing to complete projects and make sure the execution is completed as smoothly as possible.
By efficiently setting up your budget and award process in the late fall, your program implementation in the late spring or early summer of following year will be more successful. Earlier execution timelines avoid the pitfalls of late season capacity constraints and material price volatility. After all the planning and investment that goes into parking lot work, doesn’t everyone — including customers — want to enjoy the parking lot before the snow comes? Although there are many variables at play when planning a parking lot renovation, the one thing to keep in mind is “the early bird gets the worm.”
— Andrew Musto is chief operating officer of U.S. Pavement Services, Inc. For more than 30 years, U.S. Pavement Services has been providing the most comprehensive and professional pavement maintenance and construction services in the industry. For more information, visit www.uspavement.com or call 1-800-PAVEMENT.