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July/August 2007 – Success follows excellence in design

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Another outstandingly impressive set of entrants to the Structural Steel Design Awards has earned high praise from the independent judging panel, demonstrating again why constructional steelwork is the preferred material for designers of everything from major bridges to high profile commercial buildings and innovative structures of all types. What was particularly impressive again this year was the wide range of structures selected: we saw bridges forming key parts of major infrastructure, as well as smaller and more elegant footbridges that are already local landmarks.

We saw steel working in harmony with other materials like timber to create striking buildings housing visitor attractions. Only steel could have provided what the judges said was the ‘stunning spectacle’ of the two opposing right angle triangles forming the structure housing the Royal Air Force Museum at Cosford.

We saw steel providing large commercial spaces in technically challenging innovative designs like the Palestra building in Waterloo. The short listed projects that stopped short of earning the ultimate accolades from the judges were an impressive group in their own right.

Diverse as they were they had many things in common – apart from relying on steel – most notably that they were very successful projects. Clients, architects, structural engineers, main contractors, steelwork contractors and other specialists worked harmoniously to deliver striking additions to our built environment on time and on budget. Any of them could probably have won a Successful Project award.

Granted, it is easier to design in programme and cost certainty once steel is selected, but the construction team in each case performed admirably and certainly beyond the expectations of people who hear of the construction industry only through headline grabbing project overruns.  The awards showcase design achievement, but, as these projects show, much follows on from excellence in design.

Steelday a winning formula

Don’t expect to attend or even hear about a better organised and more successful industry event than this year’s Steelday. Held at the old Billingsgate fishmarket in London for the first time, the new format of exhibition and seminar programme has proven to be a winning formula.

Leading steelwork contractors and suppliers took advantage of the chance that only comes around every two years to exhibit and network as well as get up to speed on the latest developments in key areas via the rolling programme of six seminars. All of the exhibitors on the stands that we visited, and that was all of them (sorry if we somehow missed anybody out) said they were delighted with the turnout and the opportunity to meet so many key customers in one day. Steelwork contractors were pleased with the chance to show off what they are doing to visitors and the ‘quality’ of visitor was said by all types of exhibitor to be pleasingly high.

The seminars were well attended, pitched at just the right length to allow speakers to highlight key developments that delegates might need to know more about. Good news was delivered on a wide range of fronts, including market share growth in the bridges sector, the increasingly potent arguments being put together to back the sustainability case for steel, progress being made on Eurocodes, the increasing success of structural fire engineering, the competitive advantage that steel enjoys in the structural frames market, and innovations in steel construction like the growing use of Oval Tubes, offsite structural cores and fibre reinforced composite flooring.

Constructional steelwork is obviously a vibrant, forward thinking and innovative part of the construction industry and Steelday succeeded brilliantly in showcasing some of the best of it.

Nick Barrett

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