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Awards still going strong at 50

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The Structural Steel Design Awards reach a notable milestone this year, having showcased for 50 years the best of what the UK steel construction industry can achieve, a remarkable longevity for an awards. The awards have consistently shown that the best of UK constructional steelwork is world-class, and is as relevant now as it was in 1969.

As chairman of the judging panel, Chris Nash says the projects achieving awards, and those on the shortlist, stand as testimony to the outstanding skills deployed by the steel construction industry as a whole, and all involved in the industry should take pride in the achievement the projects represent.

No one with any appreciation of architecture or engineering could fail to be impressed by the SSDA entries, some of which are justifiably described by the judges as ‘jaw dropping’. The entries tell a story of what the modern UK economy looks like and give strong hints as to what it is becoming. Whatever anyone’s views on the UK leaving the EU, there is a large vote of confidence in the UK’s future from the major investments represented here. And what a varied group they are:

Bloomberg has selected London for its European Headquarters building, one of the most sustainable buildings in the UK – and perhaps the world – made possible by an innovative steel design.

Excellence in sustainability has also been achieved by Jaguar Land Rover’s Engine Manufacturing Centre, one of the largest buildings yet to achieve a BREEAM ‘Excellent’ rating. The building makes use of steel’s flexibility and adaptability so changes in engine design and technology in a fast changing market can be easily accommodated.

Integration of architecture and engineering has been achieved seamlessly say the judges on the smallest of this year’s Awards, the Knostrop Weir Foot and Cycle Bridge, that reconnects the Trans Pennine Trail with an elegant modern design.

London Bridge Station has been transformed while remaining operational, with the use of steel allowing the work to be designed for ease of construction, which was a large part of the success of delivering the project ahead of schedule and within budget.

The great age of railway engineering might be past but the UK is still innovating in railway bridge design and construction with the world’s first asymmetric network arch – the Ordsall Chord Viaduct – in Manchester.

Effortless installation of major structural steel elements was reported by the construction team at the Victoria & Albert Museum where one of the largest temporary exhibition spaces in the UK has been created. Creating the folded plate roof and providing the essential long spans could hardly have been achieved other than by using steel.

The commended and merit categories of the awards contains some obviously outstanding structures like the Approach Viaduct South of the Queensferry Crossing, Belfast’s new Waterfront Conference and Exhibition Centre and the weathering steel of Four Pancras Square at King’s Cross.

After 50 years the SSDA is going as strong as ever, and looks a safe bet to still be around in 2068.

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