As the construction season has slowed down the impact on roofing and cladding material available has changed. Since Glenigan for the National Federation of Roofing Contractors (NFRC) reported the issues the supply pressures have improved.

In a statement by the co-chairs of the Construction Leadership Council’s (CLC) Product Availability working group they stated “there has been a slight levelling off in construction demand, mostly in the domestic Repair, Maintenance and Improvement sector, demand remains high, with strong projections based on the anticipated pipeline of work for the rest of the year. Overall product supply has improved slightly with lead times stabilising in some product areas.”

However, they have warned there are still various issues impacting the construction industry.

Materials

The materials that still remain in short supply include timber battens, chipboard, steel lintels and PVC. CLC reported that the main concern is regarding blocks and bricks. In addition, delays on concrete roof tiles and bagged cement have lead times averaging around 24-30 weeks. This can be up to 36 weeks for some products, according to the National Federation of Roofing Contractors (NFRC). Philip Campbell, Head of Policy at the NFRC commented “With high demand from the housebuilding industry expected to continue well into 2022, this is not likely to come down any time soon”.

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Transport

Alongside materials, transport continues to be an issue across the industry. A Road Haulage Association (RHA) survey of its members estimated there is now a shortage of more than 100,000 qualified drivers in the UK.

CLC reported “global shipping capacity has been reduced by 25% since the start of the pandemic, leading to delays and high container prices. The British Ports Association expects challenges to continue until at least the second quarter of 2022.”

Furthermore, despite the Government introducing changes to driving licences and tests for heavy goods vehicles (HGV) shortages are still affecting the UK. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) found Brexit has also had a major impact on the moving of goods in and out of the UK. In Q1 (January to March) imports and exports fell by 24.2% in comparison to 2019. Brexit alongside the coronavirus pandemic imposing national lockdowns and travel restrictions the trucking industry has suffered. This has then had an onset effect on various other industries with delayed deliveries.

CLC stated “In addition to ongoing disruption stemming from China’s sustained ‘zero’ policy with regard to covid-19 outbreaks, performance issues at Felixstowe have led some major shipping lines to divert vessels headed there from Asia to other, smaller ports in the UK. However, the logistics sector reports recent progress with the government providing additional training opportunities and grants to get more HGV drivers on the roads. With driver wage increases and flexibility in working making the industry more attractive, we are hopeful that driver shortages will have less impact on our sector in 2022.”

Pricing

Due to increased lead times and demand, many prices have increased. This is due to the difficulty manufacturers and suppliers are facing to build their stock levels. The Federation of Master Builders (FMB) revealed that 93% of its members were experiencing price rises. Additionally, according to the Construction Products Association (CPA) 9 of out 10 material suppliers expect costs to increase further over the next 12 months.

CLC reported “The level of price increases for many products has moderated but this may be short-lived, due to continued pressure on costs of raw materials, labour and transport.  Energy prices, particularly the doubling of the wholesale cost of gas, is also a critical factor for manufacturers, along with higher carbon prices related to the increased use of coal-fired power stations.”

Lack of labourers

Although materials have caused delays 60% of builders have reported they have had to pause jobs due to a lack of tradespeople. The FMB survey discovered that the quantities of general labourers, carpenters, joiners, and plasterers were all down by 6%. Furthermore, the ONS reported there were 43,000 construction job vacancies between July and September. With which CPC have stated they expect “500,000 UK-born workers to leave the industry in the next 10 years as a demographic “bulge” of 50 to 65-year-olds retires”.

Overall

In general, the future is uncertain with the rapid increase in cases of Omicron. CLC reference the matter of uncertainty and “managing under unprecedented circumstances” however, state “we are currently in a better position than three to four months ago.” The group encourages the supply change to work collaboratively, plan and have strong communication paths to get through to the future.

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