March 5, 2024

Heavy civil construction in the Florida Keys requires a lot of creative thinking, careful planning, and committed crews who care deeply about being good stewards of the area. That means taking into account the unique landscape and climate. We undertake the same big infrastructure projects that other cities do, of course — bridges, roadways, utilities systems — only with the added twists of island living, a vulnerable ecosystem, and increased exposure to extreme weather events. 

Charley Toppino & Sons have called the Florida Keys home since the early 1900s, and we are fierce protectors of this slice of paradise. We understand how the climate impacts heavy civil construction here and what our role is in building a safe, connected, and beautiful region for generations to come. So, what’s it like building in paradise? Let’s take a look!

What is Heavy Civil Construction?

Heavy civil construction refers to public infrastructure projects. The roads you drive on, the bridges you cross, the underground gas pipelines and stormwater drainage systems you can’t see but benefit from every day — those are all examples of heavy civil construction. It’s critical work that enables cities to function smoothly and safely. Projects like these are typically government funded since they serve vast portions of the local population and, in the case of the Florida Keys where we have a high tourist population, visitors who contribute to our local economy.

The size, scope, and complexity of these infrastructure projects is so significant that extreme care and precise engineering are required to ensure public safety and protection of the natural environment. We combine our expert technical experience, cutting-edge equipment, and deep knowledge of the Florida Keys to deliver the infrastructure our collection of islands needs to thrive. 

Building for the Florida Keys’ Climate

Properly functioning infrastructure is the silent backbone of daily life. Charley Toppino & Sons has participated in some of the largest infrastructure projects in the history of Monroe County: the famous Seven Mile Bridge, Key West International Airport, the US1, the Cudjoe Regional Wastewater System, and countless others. It’s safe to say that in our more than 100 years in operation, our work can be found just about everywhere here, whether you can see it or not.

The Florida Keys enjoys a mild, tropical maritime climate, which is just a fancy way of saying our weather is affected by nearby water. And we are definitely surrounded by water! Our climate, and the weather it brings with it, dictates how we build here. 

Our blue skies and year-round warm temperatures, especially during the dry season of December through April, means we’re never battling with ice, sleet, or snow. And only on rare occasions have we ever gotten frost! While we get, on average, 65% of our annual rain during the wet season of June through October, it comes in the form of a daily shower or two, but not an all-out downpour for six months straight. In general, the weather is on our side for heavy civil construction.

We’re surrounded by incredible beauty — a priceless resource worthy of protection. Our engineers and crews are constantly innovating to create intentional infrastructure that enhances quality of life and protects our sensitive ecosystem. Whether we’re building a bridge, an airport, a seawall, or sewer system, we’re engineering the best solutions for navigating porous limestone, coral bedrock, high water tables, and an abundance of saltwater. Our goal is always to build in ways that disturb the fewest flora and fauna since they play a huge role in the long term health of the area.

Building for Extreme Weather Events

When you live in a climate like ours, you learn quickly that Mother Nature is a tricky adversary at times. For all the incredible benefits that come with living in a tropical locale, there are also some very real threats, not least of which is extreme weather. It’s vital that every heavy civil construction project is built with extreme weather in mind. Hurricanes, storm surges, tropical storms, tidal flooding, and even tornadoes have devastated the Florida Keys before and still pose a real risk to our 83,000 permanent residents and huge numbers of tourists each year. 

So, when it comes to building with extreme weather events in mind, the first thing we always have to consider is how to keep everyone safe and ensure everyone can be evacuated in 24 hours or less. Bridges, roadways, and seawalls must be durable, reliable, and weather-resistant. Our stormwater drainage systems, sewer systems, and utilities pipelines must hold up to prevent massive flooding and loss of power. And when Mother Nature gets the best of the Florida Keys, we’re able to jump into action to repair critical infrastructure damage and provide storm cleanup.

PSA: The Weather Doesn’t Care About Your Budget or Timeline

Outdoor infrastructure projects, like any kind of heavy civil construction, are affected by weather, extreme or not. When the weather is not on your side, your budget and timeline will feel it. 

Heavy Equipment Damage

Whether it’s a strong storm or a full-on hurricane, there’s always the possibility any kind of less-than-ideal weather occurrence can damage equipment. Depending on the type of equipment and the type of damage it sustains, there can be long delays for repairs or replacements. 

Supply Chain Issues

It seems like the entire world became familiar with “supply chain issues” during the pandemic, but of course, if you work in construction, the concept wasn’t news to you. Nothing happens in a vacuum, even on an island, so when a significant weather event happens on one side of the country or globe, the effects of it can certainly trickle down to us. And when we experience our own weather events, the impact is even more intense. 

Take, for example, erosion. We have to build with erosion prevention in mind — not just because of the instability erosion creates, but because we need sand to make concrete and asphalt. The Florida Keys may come with what seems like an unlimited supply of this natural resource, but it’s just not true. As erosion, both human- and nature-induced, increases, so does the cost and availability of certain kinds of aggregates.

Sustainability is key to our approach. We’re dedicated to material recycling, repurposing resources and reducing waste. By using recycled materials in our aggregates, we contribute to a greener, more environmentally conscious construction industry.

We Can’t Predict the Weather, But We’ve Been Building the Future of the Keys Since 1910.

With more than a century of building experience in the Florida Keys and over 5,000 projects under our belt, it’s safe to say our work goes beyond concrete and steel. This is where we do business, but more than that, this is where we call home. We’re connecting communities, facilitating smart and sustainable growth, and creating opportunities for the area. With each project we undertake, we lay the groundwork for a brighter future in the Keys. If you’re looking for expert engineering, skilled crews, and advanced knowledge of the landscape, Charley Toppino & Sons is here for you, rain or shine.

Explore all our construction capabilities today.