Cement in short supply for several months
The Cement Association of Canada reports that supply chain issues as well as labor shortages and inflation are contributing to the cement shortage.
Construction workers on a construction site
For months, North American cement plants have struggled to meet the growing demand for cement, an essential component of concrete. Given the prevalence of this material in the construction industry, real estate developers face logistical challenges that complicate the realization of their projects.
While concrete suppliers were once able to fill orders on a few hours notice, the reality is much different today, notes Richard Lyall, president of the Home Builders Council of Ontario (RESCON). Promoters must now place their orders several weeks in advance, he explains, and hope that they are honoured.
In a press release published in July, the x27;Concrete Ontario Association, which represents Ontario's concrete producers, informed the industry that unprecedented challenges are affecting the ability of suppliers to meet demand.
The association then identified problems in the supply chain, equipment shortages and temporary plant closures as the main reasons for what it described as an emergency.
In Canada, concrete is used in the construction of various structures.
There is no certainty that [the concrete] will be delivered at the agreed time, says Mr. Lyall, who notes that the foundations of the vast majority of buildings in Ontario are constructed with this material. If you don't pour the concrete on time, the whole construction is delayed, he explains.
According to him, the many developers who have tried to obtain cement from suppliers outside the province and even Canada have encountered a shortage that affects all of North America.
The Cement Association of Canada also cites supply chain issues, as well as labor shortages and inflation as reasons for the problem.
Cement is an essential component of concrete, a material whose use is ubiquitous in the Canadian construction industry.
The industry is working to produce as much cement as possible to meet demand, CEO Adam Auer said in a written statement.
In principle, he continues, this demand is very positive – it demonstrates that governments and the private sector continue to stimulate the economy through construction and modernization projects large and small. He foresees a gradual improvement in the situation.
In its statement, Concrete Ontario said it expects supply issues to persist through the end of the year. The association did not respond to our request for an interview.
A few weeks ago, a shortage of staff at a concrete supplier delayed a residential construction project by Toronto architect John Romanov. Although work on this project has been able to continue in the meantime, Mr. Romanov maintains that several sites had to be stopped for a few weeks due to similar situations.
Despite everything, he says he hasn't seen any panic within the industry. The architect explains that the pandemic has affected the availability of most building materials, a phenomenon to which developers have had no choice but to adapt.
These pressures have also had an impact on the price of materials. According to Statistics Canada data, construction products are 14.8% more expensive today than at this time last year, increases that are reflected in the cost of real estate projects.
In one year, construction costs for residential buildings have soared 26.5% in Toronto, again according to Statistics Canada.
Restricted access to concrete remains nevertheless worrying for the industry, since this material is for the moment difficult to substitute. For a tall building, you can't really deviate from concrete, notes Mr. Romanov.
Faced with these challenges, Mr. Lyall, President of RESCON, is concerned about the industry's ability to meet housing needs. We have a huge challenge ahead of us, he insists, pointing out the growing barriers to the construction of new buildings.
By email, the Ontario Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing says it is working with the federal government, among others, to find solutions to problems with the supply of building materials, including cement.
The Ford government maintains that it wants to develop local production of these materials, recalling its promise to build 1.5 million new homes in the next decade.
In the 1950s and 60s, developers in Toronto turned to concrete because it was quick and affordable, notes Pina Petricone, architect and professor at the University of Toronto.
One thing is clear, she says: concrete today is neither fast nor affordable.
Ms Petricone believes that current pressures present the industry with an opportunity to review her use of concrete, a material she says is excessively polluting.
The architect is herself the author of a book exploring innovative approaches to the use concrete, approaches favored in particular by new technologies which reduce the ecological footprint of this material.
She also notes the possibility of recycling the concrete of the many brutalist-style buildings built in the second half of the 20th century.
The Robarts Library at the University of Toronto is one of many Brutalist buildings in Toronto.
Solid wood can also replace concrete in some circumstances, says Petricone. She nevertheless understands the industry's reflex to turn to a material that it has used with expertise for decades.
Mr. Lyall believes that the priority for now should be to resolve supply difficulties and remove barriers to the construction of new buildings, efforts which he believes can be slowed down by the additional costs that new ways bring. to do.
He says he is convinced that cement plants will be able to restore access to concrete by next spring.
In April Last, in a press release, Concrete Ontario urged companies in the industry to spend more time managing their supply chain and adapting to the major changes in the sector.
Welcome to the new normal, concluded the organization.