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January 2010 – Steel a success since the ‘swinging sixties’

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A magazine’s first issue of the new year is traditionally an occasion for looking forward, but we can be excused for a bit of a backward glance this year because the steel construction sector celebrates the fiftieth anniversary of publication in 1960 of its first regular magazine, then called Building With Steel.

Journalists relish the feeling when a first issue rolls off the press, with pride in what has been produced intermingled with nerves about how the new publication will be received by its target audience. That editorial staff of fifty years ago would no doubt be proud that the reception was good enough for the steel construction sector to still see the value in it fifty years on, so much so that publication frequency had increased from quarterly to monthly. Readers obviously continue to provide positive feedback to the steel sector’s efforts to keep them abreast with progress on the latest projects, and advances in steel construction generally, that they get from New Steel Construction.

You can see some of the content of that first issue on page 36. There have been many changes in the industry since that first issue, when there was not a mention of sustainability for example. Since then we have quite rightly come to prioritise it to a massive extent, and to realise that steel has inherent sustainability benefits compared to other materials which has been delivered throughout the past 50 years, and before.

The era of post war austerity had only recently passed in 1960, meaning steel was widely available again for the first time in over 20 years. Steel had been a feature of large buildings, such as the Ritz Hotel, the first steel framed building in London which was built from 1904; however most steel was diverted to essential uses like ship and aircraft building during the two world wars.

A trend of falling prices in real terms for fabricated steelwork almost immediately got under way when steel was widely available, Building With Steel noted.

Clearly cost, then as now, was a key market driver and it is here that steel has made strides that might have read like sensationalist claims to those early writers on steel. Thanks to the Corus cost comparison studies that go back to the 1980’s steel can demonstrate an unrivalled trend of real terms cost reductions.
The recent development of plastic theory meant lighter structures, the 1960 magazine noted, which has obviously been a great benefit to realising architectural visions and to realising client’s demands for cost effective buildings and other structures.

Progress has been made on a very broad front since 1960, creating a steel construction sector that is the acknowledged world leader. The plans for the future of today’s steel construction sector, including developing zero carbon solutions and Target Zero guides to sustainable design, would impress and surprise even the most visionary of those active 50 years ago.

Nick Barrett

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Click on the cover to view this month's issue as a digimag.