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July 2013 – Awards show steel quality is maintained

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The London Olympic year crop of entries for the Structural Steel Design Awards was always going to be a hard act to follow, after the Olympic Stadium itself and the Velodrome were winners. But the judges of this year’s awards were delighted once again with the standard of projects that they were invited to pass verdict on.

This year there were four Awards and three Commendations from a short list that included another nine strong entries. The variety of type of structure given Awards was as impressive as ever, including a high quality commercial and retail development behind a historic retained façade in London’s West End; a new home for the famous Cutty Sark that gives visitors views of its innovative hull that were not possible before; the Emirates Air Line that provides a cable car crossing of the Thames for the first time; and the strikingly iconic Twin Sails Bridge at Poole.

The Awards, Commendations and short-listed projects are all described in a special supplement from the BCSA and Tata Steel that accompanies this issue of NSC, and which will be distributed with leading construction magazines over the coming weeks. Digital versions of the supplement will be available for download on the free, online steel construction website www.steelconstruction.info, where you can also find NSC.

Sceptics would have been justified in thinking that the worst and longest recession the construction has suffered would mean a dramatic reduction in the quality and diversity of type of entry to the SSDA. The judges report no sign of that though, and the proof is in the photographs and descriptions in the supplement.

Chairman of the Judges David Lazenby CBE and his fellow judges – all eminent architects, engineers and steelwork contractors – make great efforts to ensure that all the short-listed projects, 16 of them this year, are visited. They demand a high standard, and in theory they could decide that no project is worthy of award or commendation. There was no likelihood of that with this year’s strong crop of entries though, or with any other year in the 45 years that the awards have been running.

One of the trends over the years commented on by David Lazenby this year is the closer and more cooperative relationships within project teams, a professional approach to training and qualifications, and proper tracking and certification of processes and materials.

All of these are prevalent in steel construction, where adopting Building Information Modelling for example is all the easier because of the sector’s early adoption of computing techniques for design and fabrication. The industry is also ready for the introduction of CE Marking, as detailed in the freely downloadable guide to CE Marking that can be found at www.steelconstruction.info.

The diversity and quality of this year’s entries shows why steel construction is the method of choice for the widest range of structures. As long as the flexibility, economy and sustainability of steel construction allow architects and structural engineers to express their vision and to realise the ambitions of their clients, this will surely continue.

Nick Barrett – Editor

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