A WIDENING SHORTAGE OF CONCRETE supplies is forcing builders to scramble to keep construction plans on schedule. Supply shortages are being reported “from Massachusetts to Florida, with the exception of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware, and as far west as the Mississippi [River] touching Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana,” according to Edward Sullivan, staff vice president of economic research with the Portland Cement Association. “California and Nevada are also affected.

“That means about 43 percent of the major areas of U.S. consumption are under shortage conditions,” Sullivan says. “Each one of the areas impacted has shown an increase in demand or a heavy reliance on imports.” Sullivan added, “There is also a remarkable relationship between states with high levels of residential construction and cement shortage,” noting that, “in Florida, almost 50 percent of cement consumption is related to residential construction.”

The shortage is being blamed on a variety of factors, including: increased global demand driven by China's building and dam projects; a lack of ships to sustain international distribution; market manipulation by foreign suppliers; and record U.S. residential construction.

The supply disruption is impacting construction schedules and has builders exploring alternative supply strategies (see “Material Issues,” page 36). “We are having to order concrete 16 to 18 days in advance, when two to three days is typical; and concrete block orders have to be made eight days in advance of need,” says Tony Fitzgerald, vice president of purchasing for Morrison Homes' Tampa office. Fitzgerald is working to establish a new foreign supply for his concrete suppliers. “The material is available, it is a matter of obtaining the ships,” Fitzgerald says.

Reports of a renovated cement facility in Florida coming on line late last month had builders in that state hopeful for relief, but it may be a long summer—and fall—for other builders waiting for the concrete trucks to show up. The Portland Cement Association's findings are available at www.portcement.org.