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Healthy steel construction vital to UK

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The Structural Steel Design Awards shortlist has just been announced, once again showcasing a striking range of world class designs using steel to its best advantage.

The shortlist includes a new design for a national grid pylon that will become a familiar shape across the UK, high rise offices in the City, commercial projects as far afield as Slough and Leeds, leisure and educational facilities, a footbridge and an aerial walkway through an arboretum.

This year we have produced for the first time a spread of photographs of the shortlisted projects which will give readers an idea of the scale of the tough, although pleasurable, task faced by the SSDA judges. All of the SSDA shortlisted projects are visited by judges, which is possibly unique among construction awards.

Only those that pass the strictest interpretation of the SSDA standards will go on to win recognition, and theoretically there could be no awards made if the judges are not sufficiently impressed by what they see on their visits. Looking at the photographs of this year’s candidates that appears extremely unlikely, so pick your favourites and see how they fare at the awards ceremony in October.

Quality buildings and structures like these are only made possible by the ability of the UK constructional steelwork sector to help realise the vision of the architects and engineers involved.

That ability isn’t something that should be taken for granted. After coming through a torrid recession along with the rest of the construction industry, steel construction’s order books have returned to healthy levels, with a 4% rise in structural steel output last year. Around 120,000 people were directly employed in the fabrication and erection of almost one million tonnes of structural steel last year, contributing a vital £3.2 Billion to the economy as outgoing BCSA President Wendy Coney pointed out in her speech to the Association’s National Dinner in June.

A healthy steel construction sector is of national significance and has to be nurtured if it is to continue to develop. The sector is doing its own bit in many ways like technical development and promoting Building Information Modelling. Spreading the word about steel construction is also important, which is what the SSDA helps do, as do other Steel for Life supported projects like New Steel Construction and the website.

It is good to see British Steel throw its considerable weight behind these efforts by joining Steel for Life as a Headline Sponsor from this month, joining ArcelorMittal, Barrett Steel, Jamestown and Trimble, alongside its other sponsors.

There is however a lot that steel construction has to rely on the rest of the supply chain to help with. More effective working relationships with Tier 1 contractors was mentioned by Wendy Coney as something that would produce mutual benefits. Early involvement of specialists like steelwork contractors for example would save money and time, helping the entire industry serve its clients better.

As the SSDA shows year after year, the construction industry can serve its clients well and excels at successfully executing the most challenging designs. The steel construction sector intends to do even better, as the SSDA will continue to show.

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