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Challenging times meet interesting solutions

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The background to this final issue of NSC for 2020 is fundamentally different to anything that could have been expected by most of us at the start of the year: we are certainly living in interesting times.

Among the good news is that steel construction was well placed to weather the storm that hit the industry in March. Fabrication was able to proceed in the normal factory-controlled conditions after initial COVID-related health and safety measures were adopted. Just in time deliveries to sites were made as usual in line with the demands of construction programmes with very few delays, and on-site erection of constructional steelwork with its relatively small workforce easily complied with social distancing rules.

A new lockdown was being imposed as NSC went to press, and without becoming at all complacent, the BCSA’s steelwork contractor members were confident about their continuing ability to deliver a service as near ‘business as usual’ as it is possible to be across their diverse range of projects.

This issue of NSC ably illustrates the wide diversity of projects that have successfully continued during the pandemic, either on time and within budget or looking like heading that way if not already completed. One project where time was of the essence was the steel-framed wharf and operations building underway for the British Antarctic Survey’s Rothera Research Station, which had to be completed during a tight weather window before the fierce Antarctic winter set in.

That was in geographical contrast to one of the first of a new breed of retirement villages in Kent which will surely be increasingly popular due to the ageing population, which was also delivered on time. Developers are increasingly turning to steel-framed solutions for high rise residential properties, as we report on a project in Salford. The continuing confidence of property developers in offices, despite the growth in working from home, is demonstrated in a major commercial development we report on in Glasgow. And the demand for logistics buildings remains solid as we see in the Co-op’s new regional distribution centre – targeting a BREEAM ‘Excellent’ rating – in Bedfordshire.

As well as dealing with the pandemic the UK has the prospect of Brexit from 1st January, perhaps with a trade deal with the rest of the European Union, perhaps not. Either way, the BCSA has stressed several times that Brexit will not have any appreciable impact on supplies of constructional steelwork in the UK. And what of CE Marking? Well, the BCSA’s Steel Construction UKCA Marking publication from earlier this year, that advised construction professionals on what would happen in relation to CE Marking of construction products if the UK left the EU without a deal, is being revised to suit the latest guidance from government and will be published early in the New Year.

The outlook today is that by this time next year the worst of the shocks of COVID-19, and possibly any Brexit-related impacts, should be well behind us. Interesting times throw up interesting solutions to challenges, and we look forward to keeping readers informed about how the steel construction sector continues to deliver.

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