October 20, 2021

Lumber Prices are Falling! Time to Start a New K12 Project?

Lumber Prices are Falling! Time to Start a New K12 Project?

Posted by CMBA Architects on Jun 28, 2021 1:56:03 PM

The lumber bubble has finally popped – tanking over 40% in June alone! But we aren't out of the woods just yet... “It was a bubble, but it is still double where it was pre Covid,” said Peter Boockvar, CIO at Bleakley Advisory Group. Still, Boockvar believes just because the lumber bubble might have burst, it doesn’t mean the threat of inflation isn’t real.

This begs the question: what is causing all this volatile in the first place? Over the last year, lumber prices have skyrocketed with oriented strand board jumping over 250% since March of 2020! One single sheet of OSB used to cost around $8 back in March of 2020. Near the market's peak, it was worth over $60 per sheet! Raw materials for a 200-square-foot deck were as expensive as $3,600 – more than four times the price just two short years ago!

These price fluctuations have had a significant impact on the average price of K12 school facilities. Granted, there have been tons of shortages across the board. But few of these shortages have impacted schools quite like lumber.


How is this Affecting K12 Schools?

Experts are calling this the "perfect storm of supply and demand,” and schools should be paying attention.

Believe it or not, the variables for this exact situation were being set into motion for over a decade prior to COVID-19. It could be said that this story actually begins around 2007 when homebuilding (the largest consumer of lumber) came to an abrupt stop. This caused demand for lumber in the United States to fall a staggering 49% – putting over 30 large mills out of business and dramatically slowing the import process.

Meanwhile, in Canada...

While the United States was suffering from halting demand after the Great Recession, Canada (a major supplier of lumber) was having problems of their own. It began with an infestation of bark-eating beetles which pillaged 44 million acres of forestland, which killed 60% of British Columbia's salable pine.

As if that wasn’t enough, the bark-eating beetles were followed some years later with devastating wildfires which destroyed another 6.2 million acres of would-be lumber. Loggers were able to salvage most of the damaged wood, but the faster rate of cutting caused a long-term shortage.

A Dreadful Culmination.

By April 2020, in anticipation of shrinking demand, sawmill operators had cut back output capacity by 40%! But something strange happened: Demand for lumber didn't go down – it went up! Record low home interest rates, stimulus cash, and more time at home led to a boom in home remodels and new construction, ratcheting up lumber demand. Sawmills simply cannot keep up with demand!

On top of this all this, the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) reported that contributing factors also include a serious lack of certified semi-truck drivers to haul lumber, as well as many people spending their time building decks, repairing fences, and completing other DIY projects during lockdowns.

What Now?

While lumber prices are finally going down, they're still nearly double what they were prior to COVID-19! Investor Peter Boockvar, CIO at Bleakley Advisory Group has pointed to the CRB raw industrials index, which is at a 10-year high right now. It tracks materials that don’t trade on a futures exchange which paints a clearer picture of actual supply and demand – not the behavior of speculators.

Our advice? We think it's wise to stay cautiously optimistic in the long-term. Analysts are still split on when (if ever) prices will return to more normal levels. However, much of the world is breathing a sigh of relief and there’s nothing wrong with that! If you've been putting off a new K12 project due to lumber prices, now is certainly a much better time to begin making progress!

Topics: K12-WOYM