Boom Time. Tower Cranes Cloak Sydney’s Skyline

Sydney Harbour Bridge wth Opera House

To say there is very high demand for Bricklayers in the NSW market would be the understatement of the year; just look at the number of tower cranes working in Sydney at the moment (approximately 300 in the greater Sydney area). I have been in the construction industry in Sydney for over 30 years and the last time I saw it this busy was in 2000 before the GST increase and the Sydney Olympics. Reversing a long term trend, bricks are now making a huge comeback in high rise buildings and numerous buildings are all face brick in over 20 story constructions.

Observing these broad changes myself, I decided to find out how real my own conclusions were. I put some questions to well-informed sources on the construction industry, on behalf of ABBTF NSW. I spoke to:

  • A major commercial contractor in Sydney
  • One of the 10 largest home builders in NSW
  • All the major brick and masonry manufacturers
  • The Masonry Contractors Association (MCA)
  • Frame and Truss Manufacturers Association of Australia.

My first question was “Please comment on how busy the market is at the moment and when have you seen the industry similarly as busy?” ( I have comments and quotes from each, in not particular order).

  • The market is that busy that my budget has increased by 30% year-on-year for the last 5 years
  • Customers are purchasing products even at the end of the month, there are no slow days
  • Pre-Olympics the demand was similar, only the products being used were mainly ‘commons’ not ‘face’ as it is now
  • There is enough contracted work for the next 12 months, if we did not take an order tomorrow
  • There is a unprecedented demand for face bricklayers
  • Not since the pre-Olympics building boom has residential construction seen such a significant increase in activity
  • As the resource boom transitions, the Australian Construction Industry is booming particularly on the eastern seaboard, providing equal opportunity career paths for new or existing entrants to gain valuable and recognised trade qualifications.

That provoked my next question “How has the market and construction industry changed?”

  • It’s an exciting time, but what is disheartening, is the decreasing number of apprentices and skilled workers willing to participate in this booming industry. We need to remind ourselves and others, that construction is a career choice of integrity; one that is rich with opportunity
  • There is no better time to time start earning an income while forging a great construction trade career, the take-up from youths 17-20 is very disappointing.
  • There is a major construction issue with every trade impacting the industry, from Renderers, Carpenters, Electricians to Plumbers people are not taking up trades
  • Youth unemployment from the age group 15 to 24 represents nearly 40% of total unemployment
  • A skills shortage is exactly that, “A Skills Shortage”, not a shortage of potential candidates
  • The use of clay and masonry is being redesigned out of major projects with Face Bricks being the only products being specified, hence the shortage of Face Bricklayers
  • The biggest impact to blocklaying has been PVC product being used in basements replacing blockwork construction
  • There are sites where 250 retirement homes are being built and not one brick is being laid
  • There are major units being construction where no bricks or blocks are being installed
  • Face brickwork is the major products being used as there is no maintenance
  • The only reason the brick manufacturers are busy is because of face brickwork
  • The demand for prefabricated frames are continually increasing to replace brickwork with no sign of it abating
  • Multiple products are being used in every facet of construction replacing external rendered and face brickwork, partitions and screen walls.

Sydney Skyline wth Cranes April 2016 3 Image Banneredited banner image & captionI’d appreciate your comments on all the responses provided by industry. To me, it looks like we’re in the middle of a dramatic change taking place in our industry especially due to the choice of other materials. Without a plentiful supply of skilled apprentices coming through to continue to offer quality bricklaying, in the not too distant future there will be other materials used and our true craft and trade could be lost.

Let me know what you think, e-mail the New South Wales Office

New South Wales Manager



2 Responses to “Boom Time. Tower Cranes Cloak Sydney’s Skyline”

  1. Anthony Perrett

    It amazes me how many times experienced builders ask me what I think of products that are
    substitutes for brickwork. All the same bullshit comes up time and time again, don’t need to
    waterproof, cheaper, quicker, cleaner. My feed back from many of the alternate products from a lot of users and I mean a lot, is “I won’t use that again”. Major dramas when work is not waterproof, out of plumb, can’t be rendered, and costs blow out.
    Regards Anthony

  2. Evan

    Hi I’m a bricklayer with 18 years experience.I specialize in brick,stone,block and even flag stone.I live in Canada but want to go overseas and work.if its busy there and have a lot of residential work please leave me a msg thank you


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