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‘Perfect Storm’ continues to rage

Municipality faces large capital plan in coming years



By Alison Taylor

As Whistler heads into one of its most aggressive capital programs in recent years, there is no sign the construction industry is cooling off any time soon.

Trends plaguing the building industry in B.C. — labour shortages, the high costs of materials, and a plethora of jobs on the horizon — are only going to continue in the years to come, said Manley McLachlan, president of the British Columbia Construction Association (BCCA).

“If they put a budget together eight months ago, better go back and have a look at the budget or just start factoring it up by 20 to 30 per cent,” he said.

“I’m seeing this is a trend that’s going forward. Let’s put it this way — it’s not going to get any cheaper to build it next year.

“This is the new reality for the industry.”

Construction costs escalations are built into all municipal projects, taking into account all the factors affecting the industry at this time.

Still, it’s an unprecedented time of growth in the history of the province.

The BCCA estimates there is $128 billion worth of major projects on the books, which go beyond 2014. By comparison there was $60 billion on that list three years ago.

That demand is stretching an already thin labour force. A shortage of skilled labour is compounded by a retiring workforce for a workplace shortage in the realm of 40,000 people.

“Shortage of skilled workers has a direct impact on the cost of projects because it affects productivity and it affects schedules and it affects budgets,” said McLachlan. “So we know that that’s going to be a driver in this whole thing for the next seven to 10 years.”

And the price for building materials is going up even more in some cases.

“That trend is probably not going to turn down,” he said. “If anything we’re seeing a stabilization in the price of steel, but it’s still higher than it was three or four years ago — dramatically higher.

“We’re still seeing some increases in some of the other areas. And that won’t go away.

“We’re going to see higher prices than we’ve seen before.”

The climate has been called “The Perfect Storm” and it shows no sign of abating.

Perhaps the climate is most easily illustrated in the ongoing construction of the $11 million Whistler Public Library, built in the eye of the storm.

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