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February 2005 – Client focus reaps rewards

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The 2004 market share statistics which have now been released in full by Corus paint an encouraging picture of the steel sector. Steel is still the construction framing material which most designers turn to; NSC’s own reports frequently uncover examples of developments where other materials have been tried on early phases but shunned for later phases. Clients are often willing to look at design alternatives, and so they should be. But when the chips are down, money is at stake and windows of opportunity have to be taken advantage of, steel wins out for the reasons we know so well: cost-effectiveness, quality, flexibility, ease of installation, and off-site fabrication. There is also a sound sustainability case which we hope you will hear more of this year.

What offers most encouragement in the market share survey perhaps is the fact that steel is capturing a larger share of growing markets. For example, high-rise apartments have been a major success story for the steelwork sector, with apartments in unprecedented demand. Steel’s share of this market has risen from 39.4% to 43.5% in one year. Clients in this market are mostly building speculatively and cannot afford construction delays which let market opportunities slip away. Steel is increasingly the client’s choice, as well as the designer’s.

This success is a clear sign of a constructional steelwork industry which is client-focused and able to market itself into new growth areas, as well as hold its ground in traditional markets. Whatever 2005 holds in store, an industry like this is in a good position to continue to profit.

Sustainable homes

There is good news on another marketing front, in the shape of the formation of a Steel Homes Group. We know that steel can make a significant contribution towards providing quality housing for sustainable communities, and this group aims to make sure the market knows about it.

SCI has been spearheading efforts in this area for some years. There have been several successful technical development programmes and the uptake of steel framing in residential construction has showed signs of picking up in the last couple of years. There is a political wind behind the steel homes sector and the benefits of off-site production of quality units are increasingly realised.

Some 40,000 steel framed accommodation units were constructed last year, which gives manufacturing companies confidence to invest in the necessary plant; it is estimated that plant representing investment of about £50M will be operational by the end of 2005. The constructional steelwork industry has never been slow to invest and by this time next year steel homes may well deserve to be called the industry’s 2005 success story.

Nick Barrett

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