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The corona crisis started out somewhat surprisingly with a run on toilet paper, but has led to other effects as well over the past months. With the world in lockdown, there have been shortages of everything, including medicines and for example meat, which forced US hamburger chain Wendy’s to change the menus.

The fragility of the various production and consumption chains have become clearly visible on all fronts. Unsuspected connections have suddenly turned out to be crucial for the normal continuation of functioning. With all global dependencies, our total system is surprisingly fragile at the end.

The building industry has not remained unaffected either. Construction still proceeds, but there are also shortages of materials and skilled workers, commonly labor migrants who have returned to their home countries for a longer period of time. This, while prices have already exponentially gone up in recent years.

But to what can the price increases be traced? First of all, to the upturn that provided builders with the renewed opportunity to choose after the economic crisis. And thus especially to focus on minimal risks and maximum returns. On the go, they probably also calculated some compensation for the lean times before.

But perhaps some of the increased costs can also be traced to further down the chain, to the suppliers and manufacturers of building products and raw materials. Precisely these have strongly been impacted by the lockdown as well, so who knows what delivery problems and price increases are yet to come. For the time being in any case, the client seems to be chained to the construction branch and compelled to accept the high prices.

But corona has also led to new agility. DSM has been able to swiftly produce disinfection liquids. The chemical group also forms an unexpected alliance with the Dutch bed manufacturer Auping for the production of face masks.

Perhaps construction can learn from this; maybe parties can suddenly come to extraordinary results outside of the usual chain relations. Through unexpected collaborations or by skipping some steps in the chain. And who knows, this might also lead to a somewhat healthier price-quality ratio.

Ronald Schleurholts, architect partner cepezed

Cobouw, June 4th 2020