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Shortages in Construction post-Covid

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By Simon Crowe – 6th September 2021

Construction Materials in Short Supply

Looking back to early 2020, the construction industry was in a good place until lockdown shook us all. However as an industry, we are incredibly resilient and tools were not down for long, as the green light was given from government for projects to continue – all-be-it a little differently.

As the months progressed having the authority to deliver on projects was superb, but it quickly became apparent not all sectors we operating as we were, and resource shortages started to impact building and infrastructure projects fulfilling on their promises.

During the pandemic, many product manufacturers were affected by working restrictions and shortages of raw materials, which meant production rates declined. Compounded, with a surge in projects moving to site there was a sudden and massive increase in demand for materials with contractors struggling to source what was needed.

As a result, we are now witnessing projects being delayed, both on-site and at planning stages. The knock-on effects are causing instability in the tendering process, with contractors becoming less willing to fix tender prices, as cost increases are unpredictably occurring.

The result of materials shortage has led to prices rising by 14.7% for all construction work, compared to this time last year and the new findings report from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) also shows that prices increased by 2.2% for all work in June compared to the previous month.

To address these issues, a greater level of lateral thinking is required. Contractors could be looking at two-stage tendering and open-book collaboration. Partnering contracts is an approach we have advocated for over 20 years, and it is something that could really have a strong impact now.

And of course, there is another solution – the use of alternative materials. Could we be moving away from traditional materials such as bricks, cement and mortar? Could we be embracing more modern methods of off-site construction and pre-fabrication?

Project-wise, we are set to face a huge boom in the construction industry in the coming months. The appetite, investment and government support are readily available, now it’s time to look at new future-proofing methods of producing and supplying materials.

If we look at concrete in particular, the production of commercial concrete releases tons of greenhouse gas carbon emissions into the atmosphere each year, the materials shortages events could prove an opportunity to specify alternative materials, that are greener and friendlier to the environment, materials that are advancing in technological growth, such as ashcrete, recycled plastic and mycelium.

There are opportunities for the construction industry to change its mindset, we have successfully adopted new digital construction methods, perhaps it is time to embrace greener building methods and materials and turn the challenge of sourcing materials into an opportunity.

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