Escalating Materials: What you need to know

2020 brought an onslaught of changes in the construction industry. There was a sudden increase of working from home; there were shifts in commercial construction, and there were huge material inflations. COVID-19’s manufacturing delays and personnel shortages were married with an election year to create the perfect storm of material challenges. While these issues might seem like something that would make us throw in our towel, they’ve actually forced us to work smarter and think differently about how we approach construction. 


According to Forbes, “As of the week of March 11, the price of lumber per thousand board feet is at $1,044, according to Random Lengths. That’s an all-time high and up 188% since the onset of the pandemic. As lumber prices soared, we found ourselves looking into other cost-effective alternatives such as light gauge metal studs. The good news is that experts say that as vaccine rollout continues to be successful, we should see lumber prices level off too. 


Like lumber, steel prices also sky-rocketed in 2020 and continue to do so in 2021 for many of the same reasons as its wooden counterpart.  In fact, it’s one of the major material escalation concerns with our own upcoming construction projects. Not only are we seeing a rise in material costs, but we are also seeing exponentially longer lead times. Controversial tariffs are also a part of the problem as is the demand for the product. As of March 2021, steel demands outpace its supply. 


Just last week, Bloomberg sent shockwaves when they announced in a headline that the “world will need 10 million tons more copper to meet demand.” As you might surmise, copper is one of the most coveted metals. It is used in everyday products such as batteries but also in commercial construction necessities such as electrical wiring and pipes. One way we are pivoting during the deficit is by using alternative metals such as aluminum. 


We are also seeing a pricing surge for plastics, also known as PVC. In construction, PVC is used in everything from piping to flooring, and the industry is being hit hard by the delays and towering prices. Interestingly, this is largely a domestic issue that’s rooted in Texas and Louisiana manufacturing. Besides delays caused by the pandemic, both states were also behind due to 2020’s hurricanes and 2021’s historic winter freeze. 

So what is the solution to these various material woes? For one, maintaining and balancing expectations. You can trust that we are ahead of the problem. We are well-versed in the supply chain and are seeking alternatives when necessary. Additionally, we are building manageable timelines into our project schedules. We are also thinking outside of the box. What might seem like a problem to the rest of the world is an opportunity for us to think critically and differently. We are on top of material challenges, so you don’t have to be. 

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