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survey on economy and corona timber construction sector

To build or not to build …

Article by Günther Jauk (translated by Eva Guzely) | 26.03.2020 - 09:26

Officially, it is still possible to work on Austrian construction sites, provided that a minimum distance of 1 m is observed or if alternatively, appropriate protective measures are taken (as of March 20). As of yet, authorities have not officially communicated what exactly “appropriate protective measures” mean. According to a circular issued by the Federal Guild of Construction and the Construction Industry Association, respirator masks, protective glasses and work gloves and the like fall under those protective measures.

Despite these possibilities numerous large and small companies have shut down. Nearly all major construction sites are already standing still. Austria’s biggest construction group Strabag is also one of those companies. On 18 March, the group closed its current 1000 construction sites in Austria and registered its 11,000 employees at the AMS’s early warning system. The Association of Austrian concrete and prefabricated component plants also announced a reduction in production on 18 March.

Different views in the timber construction sector

Timber construction companies react quite differently to the current situation. While some companies have completely stopped work on construction sites, others continue work almost without restrictions. In an online survey carried out by the Holzkurier on Monday, at least 30% reported that a decline in demand has so far been hardly or not noticeable at all. 60% of respondents, on the other hand, reported a significant to extremely noticeable decrease in orders. More than half of the respondents have already restricted their activities completely or at least significantly, while 27% continue their work without major restrictions.

The Styrian timber construction guild master Oskar Beer, for example, told the Kleine Zeitung that small construction sites with one to four employees and only one company on site can remain open and comply with the law. “As long as there are no regulatory restrictions, we will continue to work with the necessary safety measures for the employees,” says one respondent, while others doubt that a distance of 1 m at work can be guaranteed at all times.

While some respondents welcomed the possibility to continue working, other companies would prefer a clear ban on the part of the government. The general tenor is that this responsibility should not be placed on companies.

On Monday (23 March) there was a summit between social partners and the government on this issue. However, no concrete results have been communicated yet (as of 24 March).

Perseverance is required

Should the current situation last longer than until the end of April, one third of respondents see little or no risk for their company. 43% describe the risk as moderate and 24% as significant or massive.

In the first quarter of 2020, the order situation was “good” for 75% of companies, while the remaining 25% reported a satisfactory order situation. The outlook on the future is completely different. While a little over 50% do not expect a change in the order situation, 40% expect a deterioration (as of 23 March).