Because it’s the most widely-used building material in the world, keeping track of cement use in construction is a good way to get a snapshot of trends in building projects. From the foundations of new homes to the structure of skyscrapers, dams, bridges and tunnels, as the production and consumption of cement goes, so goes the general building climate at any given time. The good news is that cement use is increasing in a big way.
Figures provided by the Portland Cement Association for 2013 showed a 4.5 percent increase over the previous year—”concrete” evidence that construction continues to recover from the doldrums of the previous five years. While industry analysts cheered those figures, the just-released 2014 forecast indicates that, if anything, expectations were undersized. The PCA predicts this year will show a 7.9 percent increase in cement use in construction—a rebound nearly twice that of 2013.
These projections, however, stand in contrast to the backdrop of a softening economy. Overall recovery has lost some steam over the past quarter. Gross domestic product (GDP) dropped to 2.5 percent during the fourth quarter from 4.1 percent during the former quarter. Other indicators, including mortgage applications and put-in-place construction, have also taken an apparent time-out for the present.
Industry analysts believe that comprehensive economic indicators, however, fail to take into account forces driving the building resurgence and cement use in construction. Much of this activity can be better seen by tracking other industry-specific metrics, such as the rate of building permit applications in targeted locales. Where construction has lagged against recent quarters, much of that decline can be attributed to the unusually harsh winter of 2013. In the north and east, weather-related construction decline was estimated to be as high as 25 percent. Despite these downward zags, however, the PCA maintains that, based on projections for cement use in construction, the longer-term prospects are definitely looking up.
Construction Monitor provides building permit data keyed to specific geographic locales to help builders, contractors and suppliers evaluate present trends and target marketing accordingly.
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