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What’s being done about the materials crisis?

clock 4 months ago

More than two-thirds of the On The Tools community are still suffering from delays due to material shortages, according to a recent social survey.

The aftermath of Covid has shown us how the significant decrease in available materials has inflated their prices, too.

This issue has become too expensive for the government to ignore- so, where did the issue come from and what’s being done about it?

The issue

When the 2020 lockdown committed many to their homes, DIY skyrocketed in popularity and material suppliers struggled to keep up with the influx in building activity.

A September BBC article featured Craig Barnett, a builder based in Dereham, Norfolk, who says the current situation with obtaining materials is “probably the worst it’s been” in his career.

“Getting hold of the building materials is the main thing. With bricks, we are on a 26-week lead time.”

Other materials in short supply, as indicated by the survey respondents from the On The Tools community, include timber, plaster, and steel.

While many have been quick to point fingers at the material suppliers themselves, Nick Boulton, Head of Technical and Trade at TTF, said that the issue now lies with the delivery system:

“Any return to ‘regular’ patterns within the UK market will be difficult amidst the ongoing shortage of HGV drivers, and in fuel and labour, which are likely to continue to impact the market in the coming months.”

The resolution

Businesses are generally doing what they can to adapt to the shortages, for example, Jewson delivered frequent notices to update their customers on prices and waiting times.

The Access Group extended their support with a new Cost Value Reconciliation (CVR) scheme intended to enable their customers to handle the current material and labour shortages, and even take advantage of them.

Some creative minds have been using the material shortage crisis as an opportunity to develop some forward-thinking strategies. Rachel Hoolahan, an architect at Orms Architects, suggested reusing buildings and materials through a “material passport”:

“Rather than seeing an existing building as a structure, it should be evaluated as a repository or a stockpile of valuable, high-quality materials that can easily be taken apart and recovered.”

What can you do?

Sadly, there is no quick fix to the UK materials shortage, but this doesn’t mean that you can’t take steps to prepare yourself. Planning ahead is easier said than done, but is vital to keep on top of the shortages and price rises.

Prices for materials likely won’t stabilise until 2022, says the Construction Leadership Council, so it’s important to plan for this in your budget.

Additionally, being upfront and honest with your customers about the situation will surely be beneficial. We hope!?

We want to hear how you have been impacted and if you have any tips for other tradespeople to help weather the storm.
Watch our Talking Trade episode about material shortages here.
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