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Building a Better Future for the Construction Industry

The Construction Alliance blog
Monday, 28 July 2014

Where have all the bricks gone?

The current  demand for bricks is outstripping supply to such an extent that it has reached regional news as a general news item. Within a 24-hour period the Construction Alliance has been asked to contribute to two programmes asking: "Where have all the bricks gone and what is the impact on our industry?"

The facts are startling. Lead times are now as long as nine months, and manufacturers are becoming reluctant to give a lead time for fear of facing repercussions if they can not deliver. Brick prices are inevitably rising and we have seen increases of over 20% in the year. Most distressing for our balance of trade figures and for a heavy, low value, high energy product, brick imports are up 63% in the year. This is particularly affecting smaller businesses who do not need large regular supplies of the same brick and companies who do not benefit from national supply contracts with manufacturers.

Half the battle for our industry is to be aware and to be able to plan around these shortages. Within Stepnell we are doing our best to schedule deliveries as quickly as possible and scouring suppliers for appropriate bricks with the shortest lead times. In one extreme case, where we were suddenly short of 150,000 bricks, despite an early order, we were able to work with our client and local planners to quickly identify an alternative and thereby reduce the impact on our site programme.

Building new capacity
This shortage is the result of the long, hard recession that has seen demand slump and the less efficient brick plants close. A sudden increase in demand, principally driven by support for the housing market, has outpaced the industry's ability to switch on mothballed sites, or more likely, to build new capacity within the UK. If manufacturers can see a long-term demand in the UK and believe that energy policy and other regulatory pressures will remain benign, then they will invest in the UK and we are already seeing this happen. We should support this investment for the benefit of both our industry and our site programmes.

The link to the BBC Midlands piece on brick supply is

- Mark Wakeford, Construction Alliance Chair

posted by The Construction Alliance : 16:18


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