A perfect storm of increased demand in the construction sector, the COVID-19 pandemic, and EU workers leaving the UK due to Brexit has resulted in unprecedented shortages of both materials and workers, delays, and increased prices of materials and labour across the country.
PBC Today reports that as well as causing a migration of EU workers, Brexit has resulted in complications in all aspects of trade and labour, the repercussions of which have impacted the Uk construction sector.
Productivity within the UK’s construction sector has recovered remarkably well from the initial shock of the pandemic, and new working practices introduced to help restrict the spread of COVID-19 have also resulted in some significant efficiencies.
A drop in productivity was reported in June, as many subcontractors needed to self-isolate during the ‘pingdemic’ caused by the track and trace system. Significant lifestyle changes brought on by the pandemic have also impacted the industry, and with many people continuing to work from home, there has been an increased demand for larger properties.
The soaring housing market brought with it a significant increase in demand for the repair, maintenance and improvement sector (RM+I), as well as several large infrastructure projects such as HS2, which have all contributed to the recovery in the construction sector.
According to construction industry data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), there was a 12 per cent decrease in the second quarter of 2020, but that has increased by 9.7 per cent in Q2 of 2021 in comparison.
There have been annual police increases for timber, steel sections, and steel for reinforcement in September, 79.4 per cent, 60.4 per cent, and 80.0 per cent respectively, according to provisional price adjustment formulae indices.
Rising energy costs have led British Steel to add a temporary £30 per tonne surcharge on the cost of structural steel, which will also increase prices further for steel.
With increasing reliance on imports to fulfil domestic timber demand and some timber-producing countries implementing log export bans, timber supply remains under pressure throughout the UK.
The November BEIS Monthly Statistics of Building Materials and Components report shows that two of the top three construction materials that have seen the greatest price change over the year to September 2021, were imported sawn or planed wood (73.3 per cent) and particle board (65.4 per cent).
Brick deliveries across the UK are reportedly subject to extensive delays, with major manufacturers warning of significant price rises for pre-order due to extreme market volatility.
Since February 2021, IHS/Markit CIPS UK Construction PMI has reported increased prices and supply shortages of bricks.
Shortages in HGV drivers and a sharp increase in wholesale energy prices have meant that the situation for brick, block, and ceramics is unlikely to improve in the short term, which could have serious repercussions in productivity for the residential sector.
James Fiske, director of BCIS, commented: “The cost of materials in constructing a 3-bedroom semi-detached house has increased by 14 per cent or approximately £7,300 between January and September 2021. It is expected to grow by further 1 per cent or £600 by the end of this year.”
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