Bricks blight may thwart housing targets

// HA News

The increasing shortages of bricks and bricklayers will threaten future house building plans, warns the Federation of Master Builders (FMB).

Those with an interest in construction will have undoubtedly heard panic ripple throughout the industry regarding a distinct shortage of bricks over the past 18 months. Allow us to consider the figures in order to shed light on this subject:

Towards the end of last year the UK brick stock stood at 336 million, a record low and a stark comparison to 2009 when the level was 887 million.

It is estimated that in order to build 200,000 houses a year, a total of 2 billion bricks are required. However, last year the annual total of brick production levelled at 1.56 billion. In the department for communities and local government June 2013 quarter report (house building in England) the level of new starts was 137,780 in the 12 months leading up to June. This is up by 22% compared to last year and a whopping 112% over starts in 2009.

As it stands, the average lead time for bricks being ordered and delivered to site is now 12 weeks, with more specialist brick lead times as high as 30 weeks. This obviously can cause huge delays in completion of projects and could prove to be another obstacle to slow or even stall the growth that the construction industry is currently enjoying.

Commenting on the results of the FMB’s latest State of Trade Survey for Q1 2015, Chief Executive of the FMB, Brian Berry said “How to solve the housing crisis has been one of the hot topics during this General Election campaign and we welcome the renewed focus on house building by all the main parties. Although each party has its own distinct plans for how the next Government should boost house building, all of them agree it must be a priority. However, the results of our latest State of Trade Survey expose continuing threats which could undermine their plans.”

“Half of all construction SMEs – that’s one in two firms – are finding it difficult to recruit bricklayers. 62% of firms are waiting for up to two months for new brick orders while almost one quarter are waiting for up to four months. An additional 16% are waiting for a staggering six to eight months. The brick manufacturers are working hard to reignite their kilns which were mothballed during the recession. However, in the meantime, let’s make sure small local house builders are not overlooked in favour of large house builders when it comes to manufacturers meeting requests for new bricks.”

“In terms of skills, the ever-growing lack of bricklayers is causing concern. Compared to this time one year ago, more than twice the firms are reporting difficulties recruiting these tradespeople. In the short term, many SME house builders may have to rely on migrant labour. To ensure we have an ample supply of skilled workers in the future, the next Government must ensure it sets the right framework in terms of apprenticeship funding and apprenticeship standards. Also more construction firms – large and small – need to willingly engage with training. After all, there’s strong evidence to suggest that training apprentices is good for business.”

View The Latest Issue