Plan Ahead to get Round the Missing Bricks

For builders with a long memory a shortage of building materials is not a surprise, but news that brickmakers are struggling to meet demand is nonetheless very frustrating.

23rd January 2014

Even before reports of the UK economy’s missing building blocks reached the national newspapers (The Guardian ran a feature last Wednesday, 15 January), there were rumours and discussions about shortages of aerated blocks, but now there are some real concerns right across the country that the lack of available materials might drag the speed of construction recovery.

Bricks are almost like a barometer for construction materials. They are too heavy to import, there is little prospect of new entrants coming into the UK market and as production has been cut – just go and visit what used to be the vast area of land used by London Brick near Bedford and see how it has changed in the last ten years – the manufacturers are slow to increase supply or invest in their processes. Right now the average price for a UK brick is around 23p. That leaves very little profit margin – which means in turn, pressure on builders.

The Construction Products Association argues that despite the concerns, this is simply a return to what was normal supply-demand economics before the recession. Apparently pre-recession housebuilders were used to planning weeks in advance for materials purchasing. But after the slump, with lower activity levels, builders became used to purchasing a few days in advance.

The good news is that this all means construction is picking up – everywhere, including Wales. But it also means patience, working together, planning ahead and guess what – organising your procurement collaboratively to ensure you have the materials, the trades people and plans all in place as and when you need them.