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Ziegel International nr. 5 2017 - 2016: a good year for the Dutch construction industry

The total production volume increased by 7%, especially thanks to a high-performing housing construction sector. Alongside new builds (+12%), maintenance and renovation did extremely well (+25%). Domestic sales of facing bricks were able to keep up with this growth (+11%), although exports declined. Sales of clay pavers remained more or less the same (1%). The Dutch market for clay roofing tiles and baked floor and wall tiles developed well over the course of the year.


Social issues in the field of energy supply, climate-friendly entrepreneurship and circular construction forms are urging Dutch manufacturers of building ceramics to think about future building ceramics processes and products. In 2016, first steps were taken to update the KNB Sustainability Agenda. At its presentation in Amsterdam, it was clear that the sector is taking a sustainable environment seriously, but that it also envisages a role for itself in the future. The impact of clay extraction for building materials on the development of new (river) nature and flood management can also be seen in this context. The assessment thereof, which was initiated in 2016, has in the meantime in 2017 led to a successful publication on the added value of clay extraction. This has been met with interest by the Dutch parliament.

Raw materials

In addition to clay, gas can also be seen as a raw material for the manufacturing of ceramics. Alternative breakthrough technologies are not yet available for the firing process so that the ultra-modern tunnel kilns are still fired with natural gas. The sector is combining its efforts to use less gas with the search for the deployment of other, sustainably developed gas. The quantities available are still insufficient, but the options look promising.

Work and production capacity cannot keep pace with plans

At the presentation of the 2016 Annual Report, KNB chairman Dick Tommel, expressed concerns: "After a sizeable deterioration in the entire supply chain over a number of years and a building output of no more than 76.000 houses in the better years, I very much doubt whether there will be sufficient work capacity and production capacity left in the construction supply industry in the coming years." 

Building a bridge between design and execution

KNB has been organizing the Dutch National Bricklaying Championships since 1953 in order to get young people interested in bricklaying training and brickwork. New for 2016 was that the students from the Delft University of Technology had developed designs for the workpieces. This was how a bridge was built between design and execution. In addition, KNB has initiated a bricklaying course for construction teachers. This is necessary because the latest educational innovations have created a knowledge vacuum and there is a danger that the shortage of workers in the construction industry will lead to an even bigger shortage if construction education fails to focus more on elementary building skills. 

Prospects for the construction industry

In 2016, a total of 54.000 new houses were completed. This is the highest number since 2012. This new housing trend is clearly pointing upwards, but production is a long way from that of the past, when 76.000 houses were built every year and even further away from a recent, official needs assessment of 100.000 new houses a year. 

Facing bricks

In 2016 the total sales of facing bricks increased by 2%, due in part to increasing domestic sales (+11%). Exports decreased by 14%. The domestic use of facing bricks is estimated at approximately 609 mill. WF (+14%). 

Clay pavers

The sales development of the clay pavers remained stable (+1%). Sales of clay pavers in mechanical packages rose by 9%.

Ceramic roofing tiles

The market for ceramic roofing tiles grew in 2016 compared to that of 2015. This is largely due to new housing (+16%); the renovation market displayed lower growth (4.5%). The increased demand for larger tiles, which became apparent in previous years, continued to expand in 2016.

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