During the course of 2021, the UK – and various other parts of the world – has experienced a widespread shortage of building materials that have seen prices rise by over 10% in just a few months. Some of these price rises started in 2020; the cost of timber has risen by 80% over six months, while copper and steel jumped 40% up to May 2021.
Price rises have also struck cement, paints, varnishes, and other common building materials that are absolutely essential to the construction sector.
What is Causing the UK’s Building Materials Shortage?
The cause of the problem is twofold, being affected on one end by supply and on the other by demand. Supply of many essential building materials was halted early in the pandemic when factories and production facilities were forced into the first lockdown of March 2020; timber mills and factories closed, and when they reopened, they did so at a reduced capacity. This has meant that it’s been impossible for production to catch up.
In tandem with this, the world has seen a spike in global demand for building materials. Economies opening back up mean thousands of construction projects recommencing at the same time, while here in the UK the number of new homes being built each year is at its highest level in over a decade (https://www.gov.uk/government/news/home-building-stats-show-continued-increase-in-starts-and-completions-despite-pandemic).
Is There a Global Shortage of Building Materials Affecting the Sector?
While construction professionals and property owners across the UK are feeling the squeeze of rising material costs, the story is similar all around the globe. In the US, timber prices have finally started falling after a phenomenal rally saw them rise over 175% over the course of a year (https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-05-28/lumber-gauge-finally-slips-in-further-sign-boom-may-be-easing), though it’s thought that a ‘new price floor’ has emerged that will remain higher than pre-pandemic levels.
A large part of the reason for this global price rise is the simple fact that we are now facing a global shortage of raw materials, in part due to production delays created by the pandemic but, also, due to caps on the number of raw materials that can sustainably be collected each year.
Is the Materials Shortage Due to End?
While nobody can predict the future, many people are beginning to hope that the days of lockdowns are behind us – at least in the UK. However, materials produced overseas – particularly in those countries which may not have the budget to fund an efficient vaccine rollout yet – will no doubt remain in high demand for some time yet.
Perhaps, going forwards, it will be those teams working in construction and civil engineering who are experienced in working with a diverse range of materials and mediums that will emerge victorious in the new post-pandemic world.
At Lydon Contracting, we are professional contractors with years of experience working on construction projects of all scales. Call us today to discuss your next big project with us and get friendly, no-strings advice from the experts.