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Rocketing material costs put new pressure on architects

Brick

Architects are facing ever-increasing building material prices with half of small builders saying that increasing costs have squeezed their margins, according to a new survey

Research carried out by the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) found that over 50 per cent of small and medium enterprises say they are having to pass price increases on to consumers.

The survey identified the highest materials jump being in insulation costs (up 16 per cent) with bricks rising 9 per cent, timber, roof tiles and slate up 8 per cent, and windows up 7 per cent.

FMB chief executive Brian Berry said: ‘Material prices have rocketed over the past year. The reason for this could include the impact of the depreciation of sterling following the EU referendum still feeding through. High demand due to buoyant international markets could also be contributing to price increases.’

In addition, the survey found increasing shortages of materials.

Bricks are in shortest supply with the longest reported wait time being more than one year, while roof tile wait times can be up to six months.

A third of firms (30 per cent) have recommended that clients use alternative materials or products to those originally specified, up from one in ten in July 2017.

Baobab Developments director Paul Templeton told the AJ he was alarmed by the rise in material costs.

‘Our margins are being throttled,’ he said, ‘and it can be a struggle to communicate this to our designers, who remain, as ever, reluctant to undertake any value engineering.

Our margins are being throttled and it doesn’t seem to be abating

‘While this does require an element of creativity in our decision-making – whether it is the choice of a material or perhaps even a building methodology – this shift is obviously unwelcome and doesn’t seem to be abating.

‘With the uncertain horizon of Brexit and global instability in general, it demands caution from developers such as myself and the big concern is how to avoid that impacting on the quality of the design and product.’

Gus Zogolovich, chief executive of Unboxed Homes, said: ‘We have certainly seen price rises on most materials.

‘It comes at a time when house prices are also coming down and the danger is that some marginal projects will become unviable and we will see a reduction in the delivery of new homes that we so desperately need.

‘We have had to downgrade specification on some items as we are under pressure on our sales prices and cannot pass on the rise in prices to our customers.’

Lisa Raynes, founder of architectural practice Pride Road, said: ‘This is yet another reason why it’s so important for homeowners to engage with a qualified architect – someone who has the knowledge and expertise to work with a budget in mind and talk through different options, including ways to the make the most effective use of space and clever use of different materials.’

Readers' comments (3)

  • This is a real issue right now on smaller projects. Grand Designs and similar programmes have enlightened many clients to new ways of planning their homes but have also sometimes given a misleading impression of buildings cost. Projects are typical aspiration led, and recently we have experienced a couple of situations where the clients eyes are bigger than their belly. With planning consent granted projects are stalling as the tender returns are coming back higher than they expected whilst some are unwilling to compromise on their expectations. With money becoming harder to borrow projects are stopping.

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  • John Kellett

    The 'media' plays big part in client's expectations of cost per square metre as their figures exclude many items such as fees and external works. The fact that costs are being based on historical projects doesn't help either.
    As Lisa says it is becoming more and more important for clients to ensure that the person they think is an architect is actually qualified as one.The profession is getting a bad name because of the charlatans as evidenced by Lisa's, and my, experiences at the 'Ask an Expert' stands at the home shows and exhibitions. This is not an attack on competent building designers but no 'building designer' is qualified as an architect, if they are qualified it is as an engineer, town-planner, surveyor or technologist not as an architect. As architects we can, of course, legally call ourselves architects and have no need of subterfuge to mislead.

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  • Chris Medland's comments are extremely pertinent in the context of the article and our own experience. We've lost a number of recent projects on the basis of the material and build costs completely outstripping the clients budget when the detailed design is priced. We believe this is not only the fault of print and broadcast media setting unrealistic expectations for clients but also the preponderance of on-line platforms; on a number of occasions we've been exposed to entirely unaffordable 'wish lists' at the early stages of a project which the client clearly cannot afford without adding substantial costs or prioritising their requirements differently; a fact which most domestic clients seem loathe to do.

    We would actually rather work using more modest and humble materials in the belief that a good idea should not need to have money thrown at it; but even standard materials are proving to be ever more expensive. I am not even sure that an architect would necessarily be able to offer cost certainty in the current climate, its just too variable and expectations have outstripped reality on the part of the consumer.

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