BUILDING companies across Western Australia are facing delays of up to three months for clay bricks.
After several years of strong growth in the housing industry, Perth’s two main brick suppliers Midland Brick and Metro Brick have exhausted backlogs and are unable to meet the demand.
Inaccurate forecasts for the housing cycle have been partially blamed for the brick suppliers’ lack of preparation for the continued strong activity in the construction industry.
Also driving the unusually high demand for bricks is the simultaneous booming of the residential, commercial and retail construction cycles.
However, BGC Australia chairman Len Buckeridge has taken advantage of the brick shortage and, in recent months, has begun construction of reconstituted limestone bricks and concrete bricks for housing construction.
Mr Buckeridge told WA Business News that he was producing enough for his company’s needs and for other people who found out about the production.
He said the current brick shortage was encouraging for his brick kiln plans which are 18 months away from fruition.
Midland Brick divisional general manager Peter Hogan said even though Midland Brick had six kilns running 24 hours a day, seven days a week and was making more bricks than ever before it was still unable to keep up with the level of demand.
Mr Hogan said he had never seen this level of demand in his 20 years of experience in the construction material industry.
“Even if we flooded the market with bricks, there wouldn’t be enough labour to put these homes up,” he said.
Both Midland Brick and Metro Brick have cut back exporting obligations. Midland Brick is only exporting pavers offshore and Metro Brick says it has cut its exporting back to virtually zero.
Master Builders Association housing director Gavin Forster said the waiting list for bricks stretched out until February and that some builders were choosing to order and transport their bricks from the Geraldton Brick Company.
He said there was a danger the delays would have an impact on the cash flow of building companies, however, the industry was resilient and would work through the situation.
For the 2001-02 financial year there were 19,250 housing starts, in 2002-03 there were 20,684 and 19,000 starts are forecast for the 2003-04 period.
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