The brick industry in Belgium was able to significantly expand production volumes in 2021 despite difficult market conditions. According to a report by the Belgian brick association, Belgische Baksteenfederatie, the number of bricks produced rose by 5.1 percent and the number of brick slips produced by 7.1 percent. The increased demand for building materials thanks to a solid construction industry and the robust real estate market contributed to this. In Belgium in particular, bricks traditionally play a major role in residential architecture and construction.
The year 2021 was initially marked by the recovery from the economic consequences of the COVID crisis. However, the significant increase in energy prices observed from autumn 2021 onwards dampened this momentum. This trend continued in the first half of 2022. According to the Federal Planning Bureau of Belgium and the National Bank of Belgium (NBB), Belgian economic growth will weaken in 2022 due to high (energy) prices and new disruptions in global supply chains caused by the war in Ukraine and the severe corona lockdowns in China.
High permit numbers for new construction and renovation
The demand for building permits is an important indicator for future developments in the construction sector and thus for the overall economy. Last year, the number of building permits issued rose significantly for both renovations and new buildings.
According to STATBEL, the Belgian Statistical Office, the number of permits issued for new residential buildings was 57,724 (residential) units, an increase of 4 per cent compared to 2020. The number of permits for single-family houses increased by 13 percent, while the number of permits for flats in two-family houses and apartment buildings decreased by 3 percent. The increase in permits for flat renovations is particularly striking. In 2021, 34,343 units were approved for renovation, up 17 percent from the previous year and the highest in the past 20 years. „This is good news for the construction sector and for achieving climate targets. However, bottlenecks such as high energy, material and labour costs, the ongoing covid dangers, the war in Ukraine and the tense situation in the labour market are creating uncertainty in the construction sector,“ says the Belgian Baksteenfederatie.
Brick production with significant increase in 2021
Total Belgian brick production in 2021 amounted to 2,562,000 tonnes, an increase of 5 percent compared to the previous year. Exports amounted to 1,046,000 tonnes, representing 41 percent of total production and an increase of 3 percent. Exports were mainly to neighbouring countries. The United Kingdom remains the most important export country for facing bricks in 2021. The Netherlands is the most important export country for interior wall bricks. The export figures are obtained from a survey of members and data from the National Bank of Belgium (NBB). Imports of bricks decreased slightly compared to the previous year to 187,277 tonnes. This means that imports amount to about 7.3 percent of Belgian production according to the NBB.
Brick production by individual segments
In 2021, around 937,000 tonnes of masonry bricks were produced as perforated bricks. Solid bricks for use as masonry bricks were not produced. Masonry bricks are used for the construction of interior walls.
The production of facing bricks amounted to 1,625,000 tonnes, of which 238,000 tonnes were extruded facing bricks and 1,387,000 tonnes were hand-moulded bricks.
The production of brick slips also grew significantly by 7.3 percent. In total, 684,560 square metres of brick slips were produced in Belgium in 2021.