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July 2012 – Steel gives legacy lessons

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Last year at this time NSC wished the rest of the London Olympics structures well in the 2012 Structural Steel Design Awards, following the success of the Legacy Roof of the Aquatics Centre in the 2011 awards. Our good wishes bore fruit as the Olympics Stadium and the Velodrome both achieved Awards, along with four other outstanding steel structures (see News).

UK steel construction at its world leading best was on show at the Awards. No fewer than ten structures were singled out for Commendations, an unusually high number, such was the quality of the entries. The shortlist of projects reveals the depth and breadth of architectural and structural engineering talent being deployed on projects throughout the UK.

There was a very high number of top quality entries – and all on the shortlist of 29 were visited by the senior architect and engineer judges. Perhaps recession has brought a heightened recognition of the need for marketing, and since the SSDA has been running for over 40 years success there delivers more prestige than most other awards.

Whatever the reason, it is obvious from the number and standard of the entries that steel construction is the method of choice for an amazingly diverse range of structures, where its flexibility, economy and sustainability allows architects and structural engineers to realise the ambitions of clients as well as deliver successful projects to the highest global standards of their own professions.

Beyond the 2012 London Olympics there remains a huge challenge for the UK construction industry in turning what looks like possibly the best planned and executed Olympics construction effort ever into what could be the finest Olympics legacy. Thanks to steel’s adaptability and flexibility key structures like the Olympic Stadium itself have been economically lean-designed, fabricated and erected with demountability and re-use built in, and we look forward to bringing you news of that work in future issues of NSC.

High sustainability lean design will allow easy reconfiguration of the major Olympic structures, and changing the use of others will ensure no white elephant blight of the type that has bedevilled past Olympic games. Future Olympic construction programmes will doubtless benefit from the lessons learned in London.

Many lessons have been learned – for example, key factors in the success of the iconic and ultra-lean designed Velodrome singled out by the judges were the collaborative effort of construction teams and the early input of specialists like steelwork contractors to the design process, which surely points the way towards legacy learning of how to deliver major and landmark projects on time and to budget. If there was an Olympics construction event steel would ensure that London 2012 wins Gold.

Nick Barrett

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