Local builders are looking back on 2012 with satisfaction, and ahead to 2013 with optimism.
The City of Red Deer reported on Friday that the total value of construction projects it approved in 2012 was $268.1 million, 58 per cent higher than the 2011 tally of $169.7 million.
Residential building contributed $115.9 million to last year’s figure, up 57 per cent from $73.8 million a year earlier.
“It’s good to see the increase,” said Lisa Buckingham, contract sales manager with Trail Appliances and president of the Canadian Home Builders’ Association — Central Alberta Region.
“I’ve noticed in talking to home builders and trades that everybody has felt the increase. It’s definitely going on a more positive note, especially in the last six months of 2012.”
Industrial construction was also strong in Red Deer last year, increasing by 248 percent to $74.8 million from $21.5 million. The value of commercial projects was 22 per cent higher, to $66.2 million from $54.2 million, while the cumulative dollar figure for public projects slipped 45 per cent, to $11.2 million from $20.3 million.
“The activity out there is very good to see,” said Josh Edwards, business development manager with Scott Builders Inc. and president of the Red Deer Construction Association.
He said members of his association have seen a steady increase in the number of projects coming their way.
“The Red Deer Construction Association, in 2011 we had 300 jobs go through. In 2012 we had 350 jobs go through and we’re hoping to see this year, 400-plus jobs go through.”
Edwards said he’s noticed that more companies are building for their own use, as opposed to leasing premises. But he also thinks they’re proceeding carefully when it comes to capital expenditures.
That wasn’t always the case during the commercial and industrial building boom leading up to 2008.
Buckingham sees no reason why residential construction won’t continue to increase in 2013. Demand for housing is strong, houses remain affordable and there’s a good supply of residential lots in Red Deer.
“I think in 2013 we may even see higher numbers than this year.”
Edwards added that commercial and industrial contruction in the Red Deer area also shouldn’t be constrained by the availability of land.
“There’s a lot of land coming onto the market.”
As for skilled labour, he doesn’t expect the pace of building to be affected by worker shortages — for now.
“We’re not seeing a crunch on the trades yet. We all know that there’s a labour shortage coming, five to 15 years from now.”
Buckingham also isn’t seen labour bottlenecks in the residential construction sector.
“We’re still pretty good,” she said, praising the apprenticeship programs at Red Deer College for training local workers.
“Currently a house is probably taking six months at most,” she said. “Maybe it will take seven months, eight months. I don’t see it going back to 2008, when you were looking at a year to complete.”