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Shortlist projects push the design envelope

July 29, 2020 by NSC in Comment
The shortlist for the Structural Steel Design Awards has been announced and the 22 selected projects can be
seen in this issue of NSC (p 14). Together they are as worthy a representation of the best that our steelwork construction industry produces as has been seen in the Awards’ 52-year history.

The projects selected to go forward for the final judging exhibit the high quality that the Award finalists traditionally do, as well as being a diverse range of project types in locations throughout the UK and Ireland. We will learn what the judges thought of the overall quality in October, but they can hardly fail to be impressed.

The SSDA shortlist shows how steel construction is developing to keep pace with changing demands of designers, themselves responding to changing requirements of the users of buildings and other structures, and to changes in society, always providing a window into developing trends, pointing towards the directions the industry will be moving in. Some key pointers can be picked up from this year’s outstanding crop.

For example, all of these projects demonstrate a high level of sustainability benefits, some including ground-breaking savings in embodied carbon as well as costs. Re-purposing of existing buildings is increasingly finding favour with developers, and sustainability can be significantly boosted when existing buildings are given new leases of life by adding floors and other extensions, as we see in the shortlisted Post Building in London and Bath Schools of Art and Design, which were both subject to a substantial change of use.

Overcoming technical challenges thrown up by ambitious designs and producing steelwork to the tightest tolerances is the day-to-day task of steelwork contractors, and there are some outstanding examples among this year’s projects. The shortlist also shows the construction teams taking full advantage of the latest technology. For example, the envelope has been pushed in the use of Building Information Modelling on several projects.

Others show the benefits of bringing steelwork contractors onto projects early so that their experience can be shared with the rest of the construction team. Involving a steelwork contractor from project inception is the best way to capture the full value.

Full scale trial erections are sometimes used on complex projects to ensure fit-up and minimise risk on site, as we see this year with the high-rise office block at 52 Lime St, London.

Changes to construction procurement are increasingly acknowledged as essential to the sustainability of the industry itself, and we can see how progressive procurement has added value to projects on the SSDA shortlist.

The need for procurement change chimes with a key message from the BCSA’s new President Mark Denham who is profiled in this issue (p 12). He is asking for architects and engineers to specify BCSA membership as a precondition of being invited to tender for steelwork. BCSA membership is not a condition of entry to the SSDA, but it is surely no accident that most of the shortlisted projects for over 50 years have been produced by BCSA members – possibly enough of an argument in itself for ensuring that the steelwork contractor you use, is a fully accredited member of the world’s leading constructional steelwork association.

Nick Barrett – Editor

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