BCR - Market Overview: Brick Shipments Up 4% In 1999

August 6, 2000
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According to the Brick Industry Association's 1999 survey of its member companies, average brick shipments per plant were up more than 4% to 54.4 million standard brick equivalents compared to 49.6 million SBE in 1998.

Table 1. Industry information summary by region, 1999.
According to the Brick Industry Association's 1999 survey of its member companies, average brick shipments per plant were up more than 4% to 54.4 million standard brick equivalents (SBE-defined as a unit that measures 35à8 in. x 21à4 in. x 75à8 in.), compared to 49.6 million SBE in 1998. (Companies participating in the survey reported a total of 139 plants, out of over 200 brick manufacturing plants in the U.S. Survey participants accounted for 85% of the total 1999 brick production of 8.553 billion SBE, and 85% of shipments of 8.932 billion SBE, as reported by the U.S. Bureau of the Census.)

As in past years, the predominant region for brick production, capacity and brick use in the U.S. is the South Atlantic (which includes Delaware, Maryland, District of Columbia, Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida). This region is also the highest in terms of the number of plants (see Table 1). The South Atlantic accounted for 40.3% of total 1999 shipments.

The area of second highest importance in brick production and shipments is the East South Central region (which includes Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama and Mississippi). This area represents 18.6% of total 1999 shipments and 18.7% of total production. In addition, this region was second highest in capacity at 18.5% of total capacity.

The third most important area for production and capacity of brick is the West South Central region. However, this region was second in terms of shipments.

While virtually all brick manufacturers ship to many states and regions, the extent of geographic distribution tends to vary somewhat depending on the size of the firm. In particular, larger firms are more likely to ship throughout the U.S., while smaller firms tend to ship only to neighboring states or regions. However, as shown by the "origin" and "destination" of shipments in Table 1, the percentage of brick produced and used does not vary greatly for most regions.

The three primary unit types of brick shipped are modular, standard and king. These unit types account for 71.9% of all units shipped and for 70.3% of all actual brick shipments in standard brick equivalents. Of this amount, modular brick was the most prevalent unit type in 1999, accounting for 45.4% of all SBE brick shipped.

The major product type of brick is "face brick," accounting for 95.8% of all shipments in 1999. 61.9% of all shipments are through dealer/distributors, while direct sales represent 38.1%. Among direct sales shipments, residential is the predominant end use, accounting for 81.6% of the total. This is followed by non-residential building uses (16.3%) and non-building uses (2.1%).

The majority of face brick shipped is solid-cored, representing 92.3% of all shipments. Paving brick represents 3.2% of all shipments, and building brick accounts for 0.8%. Over three-fourths of paving brick shipped is full thickness (21à4 in.), while the remainder is half thickness.

A supplemental survey of dealer and distributor firms showed that only 64.5% of dealer/distributor sales are residential. Also, while 76.3% of direct sales are for single-family residential, only 54.9% of distributor/dealer sales are for single-family.

With a fairly small number of brick manufacturing firms throughout the U.S., companies commonly ship brick among the various regions. Over 70% of all brick is shipped to states east of the Mississippi, and over one-third is used in East Coast states. Shipments in 1999 were made to all states in the continental U.S. Over 36% of all brick is shipped to the South Atlantic region.

The two most prevalent state destinations of brick shipments were North Carolina and Texas. These accounted for 11.5% and 16.2%, respectively, of brick shipments in 1999. Other significant destination states included Georgia (9.3%), Tennessee (6.8%), South Carolina (6.2%), Alabama (4.5%), Virginia and the District of Columbia (4.6%), Ohio (3.6%), Kentucky (3.4%) and Michigan (3.1%).

States using the least amount of brick in 1999 included Maine, Vermont, Oregon, Montana, Wyoming, New Mexico, Nevada, Washington, Alaska, Hawaii and Arizona. Each of these consumed less than one-tenth of one percent.

Only about 0.7% of all brick shipments were exported, and most of this amount was to Canada.

Since the brick market relies on construction for its sales, the outlook for the brick industry will most likely parallel that of ceramic tile. According to the U.S. Commerce Department's Bureau of the Census, privately owned housing starts in May 2000 (the latest date for which figures were available) were down 4% from April 2000 and 3% from May 1999. Single-family housing starts in May 2000 were 5% below the April figure. Predictions are for construction to continue to slow as interest (and mortgage) rates rise. However, brick continues to be a popular building material and will most likely be able to maintain its market share by gaining over competitive materials.

Editor's Note

The 1999 statistical information in this article was obtained from the Brick Industry Association's (BIA) Brick Sales and Marketing Report '99. Other information was obtained from www.census.gov. For more information about the brick industry, contact the BIA at (703) 620-0010; or fax (703) 620-3928.

SIDEBAR: Brick Manufacturing In Europe

According to one major European brick manufacturer, the brick market is changing slowly in terms of design trends. In the U.K., there has been a consistent shift to soft mud (molded bricks), where capacity has been increased over time and augmented by the supplies of imported Dutch and Belgian bricks of this type. Belgian consumers are becoming more attracted to this "distressed" type of brick, while the Dutch consumer is moving away from pastel colors to the more reduced reds commonly associated with German and English taste.

The use of robotic handling is increasing in Europe, as brick makers follow the route of car manufacturers in driving down production costs. In many European regions, the brick market will see further consolidation, and European brick manufacturers will be increasingly required to meet the challenge of combining modern technology with tradition.

One of the issues facing many European countries is the need to ensure the steady supply of skilled brick layers and to keep information and knowledge of this form of construction accessible to each generation of architects. Some development work is under way in Holland with robotic brick laying, and in the U.K., a great deal of interest lies in developing fabricated house systems using brick.

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