If you (want to) build it, will the materials come? Supply shortage hinders construction

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As a business, the construction industry in northern Alabama is very competitive; but as an industry, entrepreneurs and builders are friends or at least the occasional acquaintance who come together to share ideas, discuss problems and seek solutions that affect everyone in the industry.

When the labor shortage, for example, began to affect the industry, these executives discussed solutions to alleviate the problem. The results have been more recruitment efforts in schools, training courses and certification programs.

But the building material and supply shortages the industry is experiencing in the wake of the global COVID pandemic that has crippled the international economy, appear to have no solution – at least not easy, except to wait.

Make no mistake, the shortages of materials and supplies in the construction and building industry are significant.

“In construction, we often look at raw materials such as wood, aluminum, copper and steel, as these components make up the majority of our buildings,” said Brad Parker, Senior Preconstruction Estimator at Robins & Morton. “Currently, all of these items are affected by shortages to varying degrees.

“Resins and plastics are also scarce due to adverse weather effects on the production of a variety of polymers and chemicals used in their manufacture.”

Barry Oxley, senior executive of the Huntsville Madison County Builders Association: “In a standard build, you order windows six weeks or so when you lay the foundation. Now it takes 16-18 weeks for windows and specialty windows take even longer.

Another builder said the price of oriented strand board, a material commonly used for roofs and siding, has increased by 503%. He said before COVID he could buy it for $ 7.50 a sheet. Now that’s a $ 40 to $ 50 sheet. He used to buy plywood for $ 7 a sheet; it is now $ 76 per sheet.

Joey This, president of Breland Companies, said, rest assured, the shortages are widespread and relentless.

“Forget about choosing your own roofing material, you have to choose what’s available and it’s not a lot,” said This. “Usually, if we have a shortage of lumber, we use steel studs in the walls instead of lumber. But they too are in short supply. You have to order windows when you sign a contract if you want to get them on time.

“Electrical contractors even have trouble getting copper and wire, so they go to Home Depot and Lowe’s and clean them up.”

And while the shortages seemed to be just supplies and materials, there are plenty of side shortages causing headaches for builders.

Most of the hot tubs that people install in their new homes require a microchip made in China. Spas are joined by air conditioners waiting in manufacturing plants for these temperature-regulating chips.

And household appliances …

“It’s almost everywhere on home appliances,” This said. “We finish the houses every day and the owners are ready to close, but they have to wait for appliances. “

But Barry Oxley, general manager of the Huntsville Madison County Builders Association, said the shortage of devices isn’t because there aren’t devices being built, it’s because ‘they sit in warehouses and on docks waiting for trucks to pick them up and ship them.

Oh, those microchips!

“The shortage of microchips is one of the worst shortages affecting the construction industry,” said Cette. “If you remember, during the early days of the pandemic, car dealerships were breaking sales records for cars and trucks. Now, not so much because they can’t get inventory due to a shortage of microchips in key chains and GPS.

Breland President Joey This: “The microchip shortage is one of the biggest shortages affecting the construction industry. “

“Car dealers only give owners of new cars and trucks one key because there is a shortage of chip in the key fob. I just saw a photo of a Ford truck plant in Kentucky with a lot of new trucks parked waiting for microchips.

How do key chains and microchips affect the construction industry, you might ask?

Look at any construction site. Most vehicles are work trucks and heavy equipment and almost all require microchips to control locking mechanisms and GPS.

And many delivery vehicles and shipping carriers use them as well, and they’re all from Asia where they’re subject to strict COVID rules and regulations.

“The pandemic, floods, fires and storms have affected the economy of the United States, and many of these same disasters have also affected the international business community,” Parker said. “If there is a device or material needed that is made in the USA, the manufacturing plant can still repair storm damage, experience reduced manpower, or tackle other issues.” external supply that prevent them from producing their materials at the same time. rate as in previous years.

“When we talk about importing goods internationally, not only have other countries faced similar problems, but they also have to ship their goods, and there are widespread transportation problems right now. “


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