The Building Insider: Talking Timber with Bowens

Timber is the bedrock of construction; it’s used for everything – from framing and floorboards to cladding and striking design features. The inclusion of timber can make any home feel elegant, modern and sleek.

This is why it’s so important to work with a trusted supplier known for their high-quality materials. At Fortem Projects, we’ve had the privilege of working with Bowens, a fourth-generation, family-owned company who supply timber to builders, trades, renovators and developers for jobs ranging from high rise developments to DIY renovations.

But the timber industry is experiencing significant changes at the moment. While the residential construction and renovation sector is booming, supply has been under siege since mid 2020, when COVID caused reduced capacity to supply chains both locally and overseas.

For the first article in our new blog series, the Building Insider, we sat down with Darren Minto, Channel Development Manager at Bowens, about the current timber shortage, it’s impact on the local construction industry and the domino effect on supply chains in Australia and across the globe. Keep reading to hear what he had to say.

Fortem Projects: What’s caused this supply chain issue to come about?

Darren Minto: The combination of timber production and timber imports has easily maintained pace with demand since pine became Australia’s primary framing material in the early 1990s. In 2021, however, the balance has changed, with demand outstripping supply.

Usually, timber importing hasn’t been a problem, however, with COVID, challenges have emerged. Initially, mill outputs both in Australia and overseas were cut back, shipping became unpredictable and when sawmills had their heads around a need for additional production, staff were difficult to corral.

Bushfires in Australia, South America and North America have only added to the panic. The combination of supply constraints and surging demand quickly led to a rapid increase in the price of wood fibre worldwide. 

Fortem Projects: We’ve really felt the impact of the timber shortage in Victoria over the last 18 months. Why is that?

Darren Minto: The pandemic has meant there has been a reduced capacity in supply chains for building products – not only in Australia but overseas well. This has meant that building product prices have been pushed up, putting added financial pressure on struggling Victorian builders and tradespeople.

This situation has been exacerbated in Victoria due to recent circuit breaker lockdowns, especially as many small builders and tradespeople were not permitted to work inside occupied premises.

Fortem Projects: Why is demand for timber so high right now and is that a problem?

Darren Minto: People are building new homes at record levels because of excellent lending conditions, increased household savings, government inducements, strong employment numbers, as well as house price growth. What makes this a problem is that markets across the globe are experiencing the same conditions.

Because of the pandemic, governments worldwide have stimulated their economies with various incentives to encourage construction, more people are staying at home, less people are eating out, travel has been reduced and interest rates remain at record lows.

Fortem Projects: How is Bowens rising to these challenges?

Darren Minto: In these challenging times, we remain committed to being the builders’ choice. We are moving heaven and earth to ensure supply continues. While we continue to receive reasonable volumes, as much as a year ago, it has not been enough to match the market’s desire for more. Hopefully a return to a balance in demand and supply is not too far away.

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To find out more about how Bowens is managing the timber shortage and supply chain issues, you can visit their blog page. To learn more about how Fortem Projects is managing the impacts of the shortage, get in touch with our friendly team.

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