Back to articles

Building in Crisis: Navigating the UK Construction Material Shortage

  • Publish Date: Posted over 1 year ago
  • Author: Ben Taylor

The construction industry is facing an unprecedented material shortage in the UK, which has been brought about by a number of factors. This issue has far-reaching implications, and it is important to explore the causes, impacts, and solutions. In this blog post, we will take a closer look at the current situation and what can be done to address the issue.

A year on from the COVID-19 pandemic, activity in the sector is now at a seven-year high. However, a combination of COVID-19, Brexit and the growing demand is driving up the prices of essential materials, and the associated shortage could threaten to undermine the nation’s best efforts to deliver on construction projects. There is plenty of opportunities for jobs in construction, but the costs of the actual builds themselves are rising steeply.

Why is there a construction materials shortage in the UK?

With construction projects surging since the ease of lockdown began, there has been a natural increase in the number of materials that are being consumed. This has contributed to the vast increase in demand, particularly for already scarce materials, and the hardest hit materials include steel, cement, timber and even electrical components. Relatively warm winters affect timber production in parts of the world like Scandinavia and a cold winter in Texas affects the production of plastics and polymers. The situation is not predicted to improve until at least the end of the year.

The shortage of timber, in particular, is a major issue for the construction industry, with the material being used extensively in the construction of new homes. Housing construction companies have linked the shortages to a growth in demand for new build houses following the UK government's stamp duty holiday in July 2020. This, coupled with an increase in home DIY interest over the COVID-19 pandemic, has left the industry struggling to cope with the demand for basic construction materials.

Transport costs have also increased. The cost of shipping a 40ft container from Asia to Northern Europe soared almost six-fold between summer 2020 and May 2021, according to the Construction Products Association.

The Office of National Statistics in the UK has forecasted a further leap in prices, with products such as timber expected to more than double, with cement rising 30%.

Impacts of the Construction Material Shortage in the UK

The shortage of construction materials is having a significant impact on the industry. It has resulted in delays in construction projects, and with increased demand and a lack of supply, construction material prices have risen. This has led to reduced profit margins for construction companies, making it harder for them to complete projects on budget.

Moreover, the construction material shortage is also affecting the UK housing market, with a significant slowdown in new home construction. This is not only impacting housing affordability but also exacerbating the existing housing crisis in the country.

The Global Supply Chain's Impact on the UK Construction Industry

The construction industry relies heavily on the global supply chain. When the supply chain is disrupted, as has been the case during the pandemic, the entire industry is affected. There are several key factors contributing to the disruption, including shipping delays, production stoppages, and shortages of raw materials.

Solutions for the Construction Material Shortage in the UK

To mitigate the impact of the construction material shortage, there are several solutions that can be implemented. One option is to look to alternative sources of construction materials. This could include using recycled materials or exploring new materials that are readily available in the UK.

Sustainability Yard is another user-friendly platform that allows individuals and companies in the construction industry to buy, sell, or give away excess building materials. With Sustainability Yard, it is now possible to promote and enable the circular economy of building materials, finding them a new home rather than letting them go to waste in landfills. The platform offers an easy and cost-effective solution for managing building materials, which has traditionally been a challenging task. The platform is accessible to users of any demographic within the construction industry, providing a hassle-free solution for the sustainable management of construction materials. With Sustainability Yard, users can be sure that their excess building materials find a new life rather than just becoming waste in a landfill.

Another solution is to invest in UK-based manufacturing and production to reduce the reliance on imported materials. Improved forecasting and demand planning can also help to address the issue by ensuring that construction companies have access to the materials they need.

Government interventions and policies can also help to address the issue. This could include measures such as import tax reductions, direct investment in the construction industry, and initiatives to promote the circular economy.

The construction material shortage in the UK is a complex issue with significant implications for the industry and the wider economy. It is essential for all stakeholders to work together to find solutions that will ensure the supply of construction materials in the UK is sustainable and reliable. By taking a proactive approach, the industry can overcome this challenge and continue to grow and thrive in the future.

From Project Managers to Carpenters and everything in between - it might be a tricky time for the industry but we still have hundreds of jobs in construction live on our website. Search for your next role here.