Australia’s changing construction market provides plenty of possibilities for plumbers, you just need to know where to look, International Copper Association Australia John Fennell talks trade.

Australians are infatuated with housing. Across the nation, it hits the headlines habitually. There are online chats, e-news bulletins and social media feeds suggesting the best investments, the next big thing and the slump that is about to hit.

All this information can make doing business confusing, particularly if you are a business owner trying to work out how to keep ahead of the pack and where best to prioritise in the future.

I put my trust in some very smart people who are sorting out the trends from the hollow tips.

The latest building sector predictions from BIS Oxford makes for interesting reading.

Construction may be booming along the east coast of the country, but BIS says new dwelling activity looks set to ease off marginally. At the same time however, non-dwelling construction picks up steam.

States like NSW and Victoria will still need to keep building to meet a sizeable dwelling deficiency in Sydney and Melbourne’s metropolitan municipalities. Both cities are expected to add another 1M people by 2027.

That’s not the case in Western Australia, South Australia and Queensland. BIS predicts those cities will have enough dwellings to meet population growth for the foreseeable future.

Commercial on the rise

Overall, the country’s total building construction is set to grow to about $120B in 2018, but will drop by 5% overall in 2019 and again by 4% in 2020. Once again not in all cities and not in non-residential construction, which will grow by 18%, 5% and 2% over the same period and be pretty much the same in all the states.

Copper to dominate

The commercial boom is particularly good news for the plumbing industry and by default copper. Copper has achieved a dominant market share in the commercial and apartment building market for a number of reasons. First and foremost, the consultants who design these buildings know that reliability, longevity and health and safety are crucial features in a major building that will house lots of tenants over a 25 to 30 year period.

The recent failures of some PPR products has reinforced the consulting industry’s preference for high performance materials like copper.

Cost differentials is less of an issue these days. With the evolution of quick fit installation fittings like Kem-Press, the cost variation between lower value plastics and robust copper systems has become closer than ever over the past five years.

The move over recent years away from project homes to high rise residential buildings has also encouraged plumbers, builders and consultants to use more copper in plumbing residences as it works more reliably at height and across multiple dwellings.

You can find all the technical and support information you need on this rising market-including the new Hydraulic Services Design Guide and the new Plumbers Handbook at

Start skilling up

A booming building market may sound like the answer to all our prayers, but it also comes with costs that need watching. Rising demand is pushing up wages and competition for workers for companies both big and small is adding a layer of stress in terms of revenue, profit and a much tougher quoting and tendering environment.

The other issue is a skills shortage. Falling apprenticeship numbers has been an issue in plumbing for some time, which is starting to receive national attention from our industry bodies and some governments.

Making sure new graduates entering the market are just as skilled at working on multi dwelling or high rise towers is the other, especially ensuring they have the knowledge to install high performance plumbing or work effectively in copper where necessary.

It’s an issue the copper industry is aware of and has been working to improve.