Wienerberger Comment: Q4 2020

Kevin Tolson, Commercial Director Wienerberger UK is BMBI’s Expert for Bricks & Roof Tiles.

The end of 2020 saw continued high demand for brick and tile products across the market, resulting in a strong finish in Q4 to round off a COVID-impacted year.

Brexit also kept us busy. We took the best mitigating actions we could against the potential risks, whether moving shipments away from vulnerable routes, increasing inventory of machinery parts for repairs and maintenance, or establishing trading accounts with the Customs Declaration Service. It was a phenomenal effort from an already stretched supply chain to prepare for what felt like ‘the unknown’.

The outlook is still uncertain. We await the results of the full year impact of the Stamp Duty Holiday, however since its introduction in July 2020, the UK property market has risen. Provisional data available at the time of writing shows almost 130,000 property sales went through in December 2020, up 32% year-on-year.

In Q3, according to the ONS, housing starts were up 111% and dwellings completed up 185% on Q2 when lockdown restrictions were much tighter. We await more recent figures, but indicators suggest it was a positive finish against both these metrics.

The attraction of ‘improve not move’ continues too. As the nation faces up to a potential second summer of cancelled holidays, this shows no sign of abating and we expect the demand for RMI projects to continue.

There are further spots of optimism ahead too, as we look to the Government’s response to consultations for the new proposed Part L and Part F Building Regulations on New Dwellings. The Government’s roadmap continues, focusing on energy efficiency, carbon reduction and future proofing new homes, with a drive to ensure net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Although the roadmap is behind schedule there is now a clear path forward.

Following the consultation process, the cornerstone of the new Part L 2021 will be a fabric-first approach forming the transition into the Future Homes Standard. This provides excellent opportunities for manufacturers of construction products to optimise their role in the provision of fabric and materials to contribute to the targets. The next area to target will then be improvements to existing homes.

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