• SkyCity Casino, Adelaide
    SkyCity Casino, Adelaide

Australia is facing its worst material shortage in over 40 years, with the construction sector struggling to find innovative solutions to deal with the growing crisis.

A range of factors have contributed to the shortage including pandemic-related supply chain issues, demand for work spawned by a combination of record low interest rates and the HomeBuilder scheme stimulus.

Additionally, environmental factors such as extreme rainfall and flash flooding across certain regions, particularly Queensland, have impacted suppliers’ ability to transport materials around the country.

The construction manager of Australian owned construction group, Hansen Yuncken, Scott Brumfield, said delays in sourcing materials overseas is not new but it has been exacerbated by COVID-19.

‘Steel prices have risen by 15 per cent which is a significant increase when you’re talking about large scale, multimillion dollar projects, with lead times taking up to 18 months,’ Brumfield said.

‘In terms of our large-scale projects like Adelaide’s SkyCity casino expansion, which used 2200 tonnes of steel, and the redevelopment of Adelaide’s Her Majesty’s Theatre, which used 950 tonnes, the rising price of steel has significantly lifted overall project costs.

‘Testament to the Hansen Yuncken team however, we were able to carry out these project works while remaining under budget. The main tactics used to mitigate the crisis is by incorporating shop drawings, or design intent plans, as early as possible to try and give clients an idea of costings and timings to the best of our ability.

‘It is almost inevitable this will be an ongoing issue so addressing it now will actually benefit the industry, and therefore Australia’s economy, long term.”

Brumfield said Australia’s best insurance is providing support for local capacity of steel production which the federal and state governments have been doing well to promote.

He said more support for local producers will certainly help/

Max Baroni, operations manager at Hansen Yuncken, said the crisis has piled on to existing challenges faced by the industry as a result of COVID-19.

‘Even before the national timber and steel shortage, there were massive delays in sourcing materials like tiles, vinyl, glass and aluminium due to pandemic-related backlogs,” Baroni said.

‘We experienced issues in sourcing bricks from Spain, for example, which took about nine months longer than usual.

‘Some tiles that were meant to come from Dubai were unavailable, in which case we had to change the design and source locally-made tiles instead.

‘Another way we’ve been navigating the situation is by sourcing from several suppliers instead of one. In many cases, suppliers have been able to break up bulk orders to tide us over.”