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April 2011 – Steel for sustainable cost cuts

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Now that the Budget is behind us construction is looking ahead to what looks like a fairly subdued recovery from what has been a painful recession, but at least it is a recovery. We already knew about the government’s deficit reduction related spending plans and the Budget has spelled out what the revenue raising plans are, so the pieces that will shape our short and medium term economic future are all falling into place.

The private sector has been handed the challenge of leading us forward from recession and the Chancellor threw down another gauntlet to the construction industry in particular when at the same time as the Budget he announced plans to cut public sector construction costs by 20%. This will be achieved by a series of procurement reform initiatives yet to be announced, and by looking for more standardisation in public sector buildings. This might mean a reduction in design input, which could throw up problems of its own, but we shall see.

What is clear is that a cost cutting drive is on across the public sector and the client, who can’t afford to take no for answer, is asking challenging questions of the construction industry. Many of the correct answers will include a steel construction solution, and the steel sector can only welcome a client taking a harder look at costs.

Offsite manufactured steel building should immediately spring to mind if more standardisation is sought. Steel’s flexibility would also come into its own if future ideas for what a school, for example, should like change. An excellent example of the benefits of this flexibility can be seen in London where the future of the London Olympic Stadium has been decided, with West Ham Football Club to be based in a reconfigured stadium. It would not have been possible to consider such a variety of options if the stadium had been made with any other material.

There is no sign yet that the drive for cost cuts has weakened the resolve for more sustainable buildings, and further proof that there are cost effective routes to carbon reduction using steel framed buildings is delivered with the Target Zero supplement that comes with this issue of NSC.

Results from three of the five Target Zero studies provide designers, architects and engineers with guidance to meet the government’s 2019 zero carbon emissions reduction target. The first three are now available for download at, covering schools, warehouses and supermarkets. The final two reports for offices and mixed-use developments will be available shortly.

In house training can be provided by steel construction experts for anyone who wants it by calling the Target Zero Information Line on 01709 825544, or by emailing Standardising on sustainable buildings is something that we would all like to see; and the best way to ensure it will be to design in sustainable steel.

Nick Barrett

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