The survey, by independent researchers Construction Markets, is the latest in a series that has been carried out annually since 1980. Based on interviews with 750 architects, builders and designers, the survey is the biggest of its kind in the UK.
The total market for structural frames in 2014 was estimated to be almost 38 million square metres of floor area, of which steel took the biggest share; almost as much as the total of alternative materials combined.
Steel continued to dominate the key market for office developments of over five storeys and over, where it enjoyed a market share of 70%. The research reveals that the total market for multi-storey office buildings of two storeys and over grew by almost 8%, with the total floor area accounting for steel frames increasing. The nearest rival to steel in market share was insitu concrete which fell in two of the office building height categories analysed and rose in three others.
Steel was very strong in the multi-storey retail buildings market, which grew by 1.5%, with market share ranging from over 75% for two storey structures to over 77% for six storey retail buildings. A significant shift to two storey structures, which were the main area of growth in retail, was seen in this market.
One of the strongest growing markets in 2014 was for multi-storey leisure buildings, where steel enjoyed market share of almost 70% in some segments, growing in line with the market which was driven by hotel and motel construction.
The overall floor area covered by steel frames in the public education buildings grew healthily, while strong market share growth was seen in the ‘other private buildings’ category that includes private education which grew strongly as a result of the free schools programme.
Steel increased its market share in public health buildings which showed strong growth of 19%, with marked dominance of the largest sector for three storey buildings.
BCSA Director General Sarah McCann Bartlett said: “The survey shows that steel is the preferred choice of the recovering construction market across all the building types analysed.
“The cost effectiveness of steel, its flexibility, speed of construction and contribution to sustainability are all factors that continue to be valued by developers, contractors, designers and building users, so we are confident that future market share surveys will continue to illustrate the dominance of steel as a framing material.”
UK production of constructional steelwork will continue its steady recovery from its 2013 low point over the years to 2018, and will pass the 1M tonnes a year level again in 2017, according to market forecasts carried out for Tata Steel and the BCSA.
The forecasts from market researchers Construction Markets predict demand growth in 2015 of over 9% as the key commercial and industrial sectors continue to climb out of the recession that bottomed in 2013 when output was 845M tonnes. The pace of growth is expected to slow down in following years with a rise of almost 6% over 2016 and 2017 to take output back over 1M tonnes.
Production growth will be maintained in the last year of the forecast period, 2018, at 2.5%. UK consumption however will remain below 1M tomes a year due to some of the steel being exported.
Strong demand growth is expected in the offices market in particular, of almost 40% between 2014 and 2018, with the industrial sector also growing strongly by over 20%.
BCSA Director General Sarah McCann-Bartlett said: “By the end of the forecast period, demand for constructional steelwork will be almost back to the long term average. UK structural steelwork contractors have sufficient capacity to meet all of this demand, although we can expect to see some price increases.
“It is also good to note the strong growth forecast for market areas of traditional strength for steel, like offices and industrial buildings. We remain a strong industry with a solid foundation to build the future on.”