This week, Rider Levett Bucknall released its Q2 2018 RLB Crane Index, which revealed a decline in the number of residential tower cranes in the country.

Source: RLB

The index, which for the first time includes the cranes observed on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, noted that this is the first decline in residential cranes in three years, reporting a fall of 57 since its last publication. This drop is in line with the slowing of the residential sector over the last year; the value of residential building work has fallen by 2.4%.  

Overall, a total of 684 cranes are currently on projects across Australia, only one crane down from the previous index, despite a 10% fall in the residential sector. RLB said the non-residential sector played a key part in off-setting the loss. Here, the index has risen from 117 in Q4 2017 to 166, a rise of 42% represented by an additional 56 cranes across the non-residential sectors.

The current crane count was the highest count on record for Melbourne, Newcastle and Hobart, however, Adelaide and Sydney's crane counts fell from their respective peaks in the previous edition.

The impact of the slowing mining sector and the large number of residential apartment completions within Brisbane has seen a 21% fall in crane numbers. Although residential cranes fell within Sydney with 45 removals, the non-residential sector grew, offsetting these losses. A net loss of four cranes within Sydney is the first fall since the commencement of the index.

Three quarters of Australian cranes were located in Sydney and Melbourne. Currently Sydney has 51% of all cranes erected nationally - and  residential still dominates in Sydney, accounting for 73% of all cranes installed -  while Melbourne contributed 23% and Brisbane 10% (see table above).

Since the last index, there has been a movement of cranes across Melbourne. CBD increases were mainly driven by new large projects such as 311 Spencer Street (Vicpol), 447 Collins Street, Atira student living and Eastbourne apartments which contributed 11 cranes to the city skyline since the last publication. Mason SQ in Moonee Ponds currently has seven -  the most residential cranes of any site within Australia.

Brisbane's recent residential apartment surge has impacted crane numbers across the city. With overall crane numbers falling below 2015 levels, current building approval values are still strong with the last three calendar years recording similar levels at $20.3 billion for Queensland.