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March 2008 – Sustainability underpins healthy market share

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While the woes of the financial sector continue to excite the headline writers, more positive news is beginning to filter through from those who work in the real world of manufacturing and product and services provision. The growing message seems to be that away from credit crunches business seems to be largely going on much as usual.

Admittedly, some housebuilders seem to be struggling and there have been one or two stories about developments being put on ice until funding can be more easily raised, but the rest of UK industry, and certainly the construction part of it, seems to be in a positive frame of mind. Steelwork contractors at the BCSA’s annual dinner (see News) seemed confident enough. Order books are healthy and, with the few exceptions already mentioned, business seems to be good.

The new Market Shares Survey from independent researchers Construction Markets (see News) provides grounds for confidence. Steel is holding its market share at what were pretty heady levels; the market appreciates that steel delivers substantial advantages quite apart from cost. These other advantages would often be significant enough to sway some towards steel, even if alternative materials somehow managed to make up some of the cost gap between themselves and steel.

Whatever the outcome for industry workloads this year, steel looks like being extremely well placed to at least hold onto its share of the market. The growing realisation that the world has to combat climate change should bring further gains. Sustainability has emerged as a strong business driver for the clients of the construction industry, for Corus and for all steelwork contractors. Unknown perhaps to most users of steel over the years, they were using a material with a strong sustainability case.

Visitors to the Futurebuild exhibition last month will have seen some of the sustainability benefits on two stands dedicated to steel. Corus produced a brochure specially for the event outlining those benefits and a major advertising campaign is about to get under way that will spread the message further.

The strength of steel’s sustainability case may come as a pleasant surprise to some who had been happy to use it purely on grounds like health and safety, cost and flexibility. Factoring in sustainability benefits can only strengthen the appeal of steel as the first choice framing and bridge building solution.

Nick Barrett

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