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February 2009 – Steel still dominates growth sectors

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Fewer construction projects will be undertaken this year as recession bites, but it is hard to see any reason to expect steel to be selected for a smaller proportion of them than has now become usual. As we see from the latest Market Shares Survey from independent researchers Construction Markets (see News page 6), steel still enjoys a dominant share of the key multi storey buildings market and its dominance in single storey industrial buildings is overwhelming.

Growth sectors will be few and far between this year, and perhaps next as well, but steel is well represented in two of the most important ones, education and healthcare. Steel is about as popular with clients and designers in those two growth areas as it is in the multi storey sector – which is to say it is the framing solution of first choice.

Steel construction is a 20 year growth success story without parallel and the reasons why are evident from any issue of NSC. This month’s issue carries a report from another education sector project, the North Liverpool Academy, which shows the steel solution delivering sound value, as expected. As well as achieving a cost effective solution for the academy overall, steel’s flexibility was able to turn what might have been a workaday entrance into a focal point whose design is intended to inspire generations of students. The complicated design was taken in their stride by the construction team using steel.

Similar stories are repeated on other pages. Glasgow’s iconic new transport museum could hardly have taken the shape it is doing, certainly not in the time it is taking, if it was framed in anything other than steel. Also in Scotland, the country’s most advanced public sports facility has been erected on a difficult site with a minimum of fuss.

In the old steel town of Corby a steel framed Olympic sized swimming pool, one of only a few in the UK, to be used as a training pool for the 2012 London Olympics, is fittingly playing a part in putting a regenerating town on the map. Cellular beams will be left exposed for aesthetic reasons in a design that the client calls ‘first class’.

Our Supply Chain series concludes this month with a look at the contribution made by equipment manufacturers to the steel success story. Investment in these productivity and quality enhancing state of the art machines has been one of the keys to the productivity gains that have been shared by the steel sector with its clients.

No issue of NSC would be complete without a modern office building showing steel to its best advantage, delivering a cost effective, sustainable, quality solution on time and to budget. This one, Abford House, could hardly be on a more high profile site, right outside London’s Victoria Station where thousands of people witness its rapid progress every day. With this sort of track record we can confidently expect next year’s Market Shares Survey to continue the steel success trend.

Nick Barrett

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