Wienerberger Comment: Q4 2023

Last year closed with the newbuilding sector still sluggish. Operators in the brick and tile sector remain cautious for 2024 however with interest rates flatlining and inflation reducing  since September, there is optimism that housebuilding activity will pick up. To stabilise and protect future business, many manufacturers streamlined their production lines and some closed factories for an extended Christmas period in an attempt to align capacity to demand.

With manufacturers making use of these levers the outlook feels more promising. During Q4, the Labour Party outlined its ambitions to build 1.5 million new homes, making the ‘dream of home ownership a reality.’  Anyone in the building business cannot help but be intrigued by the pledges of planning reform to quickly boost housebuilding, the next generation of new towns complete with green spaces and infrastructure, and a ‘planning passport’ for urban brownfield development. The industry will be interested to see how this might stack up against The Conservative Party’s commitment to deliver 1 million net new dwellings during its term until the end of 2024 which looks unlikely to be met without major planning reform.

While the political pressure to improve rates of housebuilding remains headline news, the housing developer volumes look to be similar in 2024 to the prior year, as many still await clarity on the rollout and enforcement of the Future Homes Standard. The Prime Minister’s decision to roll back pre-agreed net zero policies, although confirming the UK is still committed to its targets, has sent a confusing message to the industry.

The Code for Construction Product Information (CCPI) is gaining significant momentum and importance in the industry. Manufacturers are working hard to ensure their product information is built around 5 ‘acid tests’ where information must be Clear, Accurate, Up-to-date, Accessible and Unambiguous. The CCPI will help organisations drive higher standards in the presentation of construction product information. It prioritises building safety and is designed to give users greater confidence. Some national housebuilders have indicated they’ll only buy from CCPI-certified suppliers in the future and many have committed their support for CCPI by requiring strategic suppliers to be CCPI verified or undergoing the verification process.

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