Annual Conference 2023 in Weimar - German brick and tile industry in a perfect storm

Weimar in Germany, known for poets, composers and artists, was the city of brickmakers from 12 to 14 June this year. At the historic Hotel Elephant, the annual conference of the German Brick and Tile Industry 2023 took place.

The programme was introduced with a cosy barbecue evening in the hotel courtyard on Monday 12 June. On the following two days, the general meetings of the Pavers Working Group, the Brick Quality Assurance Association, the Ceramic Laboratory, the Federal Association of the German Brick and Tile Industry (BVZi), the Southwest, North and Northwest Brick and Tile Industry Associations, the Bavarian Brick and Tile Industry Association and the Güteschutz Ziegel Süd were held.

Members’ meeting of Güteschutz Ziegel: Scope of testing must be extended

The Managing Director of the association for brick quality control, Frank Pohle, informed about the development and activities of the association. In 2022, the association had a total of 91 members, 75 percent of which produce bricks, clinkers and pavers, 17 percent roof tiles and 10 percent special products. In 2022, about 810 certificates were issued for product testing, about 100 or 11 per cent less than in the previous year. Of these, 500 were for bricks and clinkers (2021: 600). The number of certificates for roof tiles and façade panels increased by 20 or about 10.5 percent to 190. Pohle pointed out that the testing scope of some plants was still too low.

Members’ meeting Güte- schutz Ziegel Süd: Who will take over the European standardisation work from 2025?

At the beginning of the meeting of association for brick quality control south) the Chairman of the Board Markus Wiest paid tribute to the deceased Heinrich Marx’s merits as former Managing Director of Ziegelschutz Süd in a short speech. Acting Managing Director Christoph Keller informed his members about current developments. As of 1 January 2023, the association looks after 33 members with a total of 39 plants. In its 69 visits, it has taken 484 formats, and some 430 certificates have been issued. Keller pointed out that visit and examination numbers could be increased and asked the members to work more closely together. Furthermore, Keller informed that the Association would be forced to hand over the European standardisation work on 1 January 2025. He asked the plenum to take care of a viable redistribution of responsibility by then.

BZVi General Assembly: Bodo Ramelow and Stefan Jungk

BVZi President Stefan Jungk opened the association’s general meeting by welcoming Thuringian Prime Minister Bodo Ramelow. In his foreword, Ramelow emphasised the innovative strength of brick manufacturers, their efforts towards climate-friendly production and the importance of brick as a building material in the past and for the future.

In his subsequent speech, Stefan Jungk outlined the current worrying situation for the brick industry with the following words: “The overall economic and political situation has the potential to be a ‘perfect storm’.”

“Order declines of up to 40 per cent, production stoppages and the threat of short-time work throughout the industry characterise the first half of 2023. After the crisis had not yet fully hit the industry in 2022 and even allowed production growth of up to 15 per cent, the mixed situation of order declines, record inflation, high energy costs, political funding chaos and collapsing construction activity presents us with considerable challenges.”

Politically, Jungk said, there finally needs to be a commitment to solving the social question. Affordable housing and a climate-neutral building stock will not be achieved without considerable investment from the public sector. Builders, construction professionals and not least the building materials industry need reliability and planning certainty.

“As an association, we are facing the situation with unity. We have been resolutely doing our homework on the way to climate-neutral production for many years. In addition, we have launched numerous research projects with the new budget. Our partners, i. e. architects, planners and fabricators, can rely on high-quality products and services. To this end, we are working on tools such as the thermal bridge catalogue and the sound insulation calculator,” says President Jungk.

The mega-topic of sustainability is at the centre of political and social communication. As a natural, regional building material with short distances and excellent recycling potential, the brick fulfils the requirements of sustainability like hardly any other building material.

“We have to make this even clearer, especially to the political representatives. We are very pleased that so many politicians have already accepted our invitations, but we will never tire of calling on politicians to commit to openness in terms of technology. We firmly reject any form of one-sided political preference for a building material,” emphasises Stefan Jungk.

BZVi general meeting: commemoration and founding of the Sustainability Committee

Jungk started the formal part of the meeting with a commemoration of the former president and honorary president of BVZi, Ernst August Bäumer. Jungk paid tribute to the voluntary association commitment of Ernst Buchow, Managing Director of Bockhorner Klinkerziegelei and former Chairman of the Facing Brick and Clinker Committee, and Dr Thomas Fehlhaber, former Managing Director of Unipor GmbH and Chairman of the Backing Brick Committee, and thanked them both.

Attila Gerhäuser, Managing Director of BVZi, informed about personnel changes in the office. In addition, the board has decided to establish a committee for sustainability. The aim of this committee is to link the BVZi’s technical level with the political decision-making level. Gerhäuser extended an invitation to all members to participate in the committee.

BZVi general meeting: current board confirmed in office

The Executive Board and the Presidium received a clear sign of support in the subsequent election of the Executive Board. The team around Stefan Jungk was unanimously confirmed in office. Helmuth Jacobi of Jacobi Tonwerke GmbH, President and Board Member for many years, made his office available to the younger generation after more than 40 years of commitment. He is succeeded on the Presidium by Dr. Sebastian Dresse of Creaton GmbH. In recognition of his decades of service, Helmuth Jacobi was unanimously elected Honorary President.

Annual meeting of the Bavarian Brick and Tile Association

Chairman of the Board Johannes Edmüller led through the programme. In his speech, he focused on the tense situation of the Bavarian brick industry in 2023. In comparison, he said, 2022 had been very successful. Bricks continued to hold the largest market share of wall-forming building materials in residential construction, at around 56 percent. The volume of bricks produced in Bavaria had increased by 2.1 per cent to 3.8 million cubic metres last year, while the number of roof tiles produced had risen by eight per cent to 280 million.

Edmüller contrasted these results with the figures for the current year. In the first quarter of 2023, the number of building permits applied for in Bavaria fell by around 30 per cent overall. In the case of detached and semi-detached houses, which are particularly relevant for brick sales, the drop was as much as 60.3 per cent. The demand for bricks in Bavaria also fell drastically in the first quarter of 2023. The turnover of Bavarian brick and tile companies had fallen by almost a third compared to the same period last year. In almost all companies, there would be standstills this summer.

Edmüller demanded that the federal government take measures to strengthen the construction sector and demand: increase the volume of new construction subsidies to at least 10 billion euros per year, link subsidies to the EH-55 standard again instead of the current EH-40 standard, interest rate reductions and equity-replacing loans for private builders as well as exemption from real estate transfer tax on the first purchase.

In addition to the current economic crisis, Edmüller named the implementation of the Bavarian government’s plan to achieve climate neutrality by 2040 as the second structural challenge. For the brick manufacturers, this means both investments in the factories and innovations. Edmüller declared himself firmly convinced that bricks have the potential to leave a smaller CO2 footprint in the future.

On both issues, he said, it was important to continue the successful political work of the past months. In this context, Edmüller introduced the new Head of Public Affairs, Annette Resch. Edmüller thanked her as well as Executive Director Yves Knoll, and Franziska Deml, Events, Public Relations and Environment Officer, for their excellent cooperation. The next General Assembly will take place in June 2024, again together with Güteschutz Ziegel and the Federal Association.


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