Small and medium sized housebuilders across the UK are concerned that clay brick shortages could significantly delay construction projects, as we move through the year.

Lagan Brick, based in Kingscourt Co. Cavan, has seen a sharp upturn in demand for its range of clay bricks.

Currently the company produces a wide range of facing bricks using one of its two tunnel kilns located on-site. Should the upturn in demand experienced continue, the company is well placed to increase its manufacturing capacity by bringing back into production the second tunnel kiln.

The brick making industry in the UK and Ireland has gone through considerable change in the last decade with several brick factories closing during the downturn and not re-opening. Industry experts believe that brick- making capacity between the UK and Ireland is now no more than 2bn bricks per annum. This figure would represent a reduction of 30% of pre-recession manufacturing capacity.

Much of the increase in brick demand experienced by Lagan in recent months has come from small independent, regional housebuilders across the UK.

Commenting on the situation, Mark Morris, commercial director for Lagan Products, said: “We are delighted with the levels of demand for our bricks, and while we are currently reaching full capacity with one tunnel kiln in production, there is the potential that we are going to announce the opening of the second tunnel kiln in the near future.

“It is the small independent housebuilder that is most in need of support and our product range and service package suits these customers well, especially with Lagan Products’ credentials as an independent building materials producer. There is a natural synergy and deep understanding of each other’s needs.”

The need for increased brick supply is being driven by the housing shortage and the government’s target of building one million new homes by 2020, the equivalent of 200,000 homes per year. This level of construction has not been achieved in a decade.

Commenting on the impact of the shortage, Jude Lagan, managing director of Lagan Products, added: “Smaller scale developers and independent businesses striving for growth in a challenging market are often the most affected by any shortfall in supply. Large multinational suppliers are challenged to sell high volumes of product and therefore service only national stockists. The majority of our customer base tends to reflect the Lagan Group business in that we are an independent and family-owned company. Our strategy is to support these small to medium sized customers to ensure supply continues to flow to meet the resurgent demand for our products.”