Melbourne’s commercial construction industry has seen its fair share of turmoil over the pandemic. Think shortages of materials, lockdowns, stop-starts, and construction industry supply chain issues, translated and transferred from the global market into Australia.

From bushfires, floods, COVID-19 self-isolation, the South Australian mill closure, high drama, and spin-off effects due to delays caused by the Suez Canal blockage adding to a worldwide vessel shortage, it was all more of a migraine than a headache for the construction industry and commercial builders in Melbourne.

With builders sometimes having to wait 16 weeks (only one-and-a-half weeks’ wait pre-pandemic) for laminated veneer lumber in 2021, the same for steel and other key building materials, the sector suffered.

Wilson Bayly Holmes-Ovcon (WBHO)/Probuild

When a power player goes into voluntary liquidation, the industry panics. With WBHO’s company, Probuild leaving over 800 employees and 2,000 creditors in the lurch for $14 million, it was a heartbreaking moment for the industry.

And this hit even harder as Probuild had some $5 billion worth of projects out with investors and developers. (No) thanks to labour and material costs at a premium and iso regulations, delays are unavoidable and out of even out of the hands of a leading commercial construction company Melbourne wide. Sitting ducks? Potentially.

Has the tide turned?

With the pandemic being more manageable in Australia and most of the world now, how much are things back on track for commercial builders Melbourne wide? With governments looking to revive the economy, opportunities for those in the commercial building landscape are coming in thick and fast as we attempt to rebuild. Literally. A Federal Election gives promise as well.

Commercial building in the public sector in 2021, including health and education, saw massive growth, buoyed by state and federal government support via grants.

But the challenges to the construction industry created by COVID-19 can be seen in major cities with remote working all the rage.

High-rise hopes

Both landlords and developers in the office sector demand total capacity. Yet, with employers directing employees on hybrid working models, the impacts can be severe for owners of high-rise properties and commercial builders in Melbourne, as our major clients may be spooked into erecting any further commercial construction.

Again, with the recently-lifted recommendation to work from home being an individual employee choice, owners hope to recover quickly.

The tail-end of 2021 witnessed a healthy growth in engineering construction and commercial building activity. The economy was turning, the weather was consistently warmer – well into April/May 2022 – and the city was buzzing again.

Getting the band back together

Hopefully, the recovery will be swift as long as whichever government takes charge steps up to provide relief for the sector.

Australian Constructors Association CEO, Jon Davies, says, ‘The best support that the Federal Government could provide to the construction industry is to incentivise reform of how projects are procured and delivered to promote increased collaboration and a more equitable sharing of project risk.’

Davies proposes that a national project rating scheme is the fix. The Future Australia Infrastructure (FAIR) rating rates projects on many key reform areas, and the scores would be made public to drive progress.