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January 2006 – Clients line up in praise of sustainable steel

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To judge by the comments we see in the press, few sectors of the construction industry would be able to field many clients happy to tell the story of hoiw they are being well served by their contractors. The constructional steelwork sector was able to do just that at the 2005 Steel Construction Conference, with one of the UK’s biggest property companies taking the podium – Richard Elliott of British Land – alongside one of the UK’s biggest private individual property investors – Julian Simmonds, the client behind the Manresa Road apartments project.

Both have had groundbreaking projects described in NSC during the year; British Land is a repeat customer of long standing for steelwork contractors and Julian Simmonds says he would like to be. The conference was a great success on many fronts as you can read elsewhere in this issue, not least for the launch of the steel sector’s Sustainability Charter. The message was also clear from clients that they themselves have to think sustainability in their projects, and they expect their construction suppliers to be able to match their efforts. So sign up for the Charter or risk being left behind.

Steel stays positive

Client satisfaction and solid performance in improving sustainability credentials – these are strong and positive messages to be able to deliver in support of marketing and lobbying efforts that benefit the whole steelwork sector. This stands in sharp contrast to the marketing that we have seen recently from the concrete sector, in particular from an organisation calling itself the British Association of Reinforcement (BAR), which has placed several childish advertisements in the construction press. The person called the ‘project director’ of this organisation and who is quoted in BAR’s press releases as an authority on fire safety engineering aspects of structural steel is also the press relations consultant for the Concrete Centre. Obviously an authority on this subject area.

With little positive to say in favour of concrete BAR is reduced to an anti steel knocking campaign. One of the advertisements likened steel to jelly. This not only insults the steel sector, but also the intelligence of the engineering design community and its clients who have overwhelmingly voted in the marketplace in favour of steel.

With puerile opposition like this it is not surprising that steel has outperformed concrete by such a huge margin over the past 20 years. Steel could, but need not, reply with adverts knocking the performance of concrete, such as the closure on safety grounds of the Castlepoint Shopping Centre in Bournemouth, the alkali silica scandal which we may not have heard the last of, or the scrutiny that very thin post tensioned floor slab designs are coming in for. Steel sector funds will continue to be invested in positive marketing and technical support for designers and users of constructional steelwork.

Nick Barrett

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