Freakonomics blog reports on the increasing cost of metals in construction and their impact on society at large.

This has really been a problem for the last two years or so

Think of it this way, steel is a major component in the following materials/products:

  • Concrete reinforcement.
  • Structural steel (hot-rolled shapes).
  • Metal stud framing (cold-rolled shapes); metal studs are used primarily in commercial construction whereas wood studs are used primarily on residential construction.
  • HVAC ductwork and piping.
  • Plumbing piping (schedule 40 anyone?)
  • Electrical conduit.
  • Fasteners (an architect’s fancy name for nails, screws, bolts, etc.)
  • Not to mention all of the finished products that include steel.

Copper is a major component in the following materials/products:

  • Plumbing piping (hot/cold water).
  • Electrical conductors (an architect’s fancy name for wire).
  • Some flashing and roofing.

Aluminum is a major component in the following materials/products:

  • Architectural decorative metalwork.
  • Most flashing and some roofing.
  • Commercial-quality (Architectural) windows, doors and storefronts.

I haven’t mentioned petroleum products:

  • Asphalt.
  • Transportation of all building materials.
  • Plastics (including electrical wire insulation).
  • Extraction, refinement and fabrication of most products.

So, in the last couple of years, you mix an increased demand from China and India for these materials as these nations develop their infrastructure, as well as an OPEC-created false short supply of oil and petroleum products and you have the environment for a mess in construction costs in America (as well as other locations).

I and my clients have felt the sting of this for at least two years.

What would have been the original ‘butterfly effect‘ that caused all of this?