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March 2011 – Steel development continues

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Along with the rest of the construction industry, the steel sector is facing testing times. The tide of economic recovery looks increasingly unlikely to lift construction appreciably this year but, as BCSA President Jack Sanderson says in his address to the National Dinner (see News), recovery is at least in view.

Meanwhile the steel sector is focusing on its traditional values of delivering the quality product that customers expect whatever the economic background. Across the steel sector we can see the investments still being made that will ensure the most up to date technical advice and back up is available to designers when the upturn starts.

National Dinner speakers mentioned some of these investments. For example, Tata Steel has been investing heavily in continuously improving its steelworks and related facilities like the coatings line at Shotton. Mr Sanderson announced the opening of a new Northern office in Doncaster to house the staff associated with the new joint marketing initiative between BCSA and Tata Steel, which involves Tata Steel staff being seconded to BCSA.

Joint market development activities are being expanded with a number of initiatives such as growing a Regional Advisory team. There is an extensive long term research and development programme. The Target Zero initiative is progressing well and fully costed advice is now available for the sustainable design of  a range of building types to help meet government carbon reduction targets. The commitment to providing high quality information for designers and all involved in the steel construction supply chain remains undiminished.

The steel sector is beginning to mobilise for CE marking with an increasing number of BCSA member companies already certified and others following regularly. It is testament to the quality of constructional steelwork and those who work with it that CE marking is achievable. That is not the case with other materials, which cannot be quality assured to the same level of confidence.

Recession is sometimes blamed for a rising toll of accidents on sites, but there is no evidence of this in the steel sector. The industry’s safety record is highly creditable and for a second year the BCSA has been proud to report that there have been no falls from height reportable injury accidents.

The steel sector is committed also to maintaining the competitive edge that it has enjoyed for so many years against alternative materials. As guest speaker Tata Steel Europe Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director Dr Karl Köhler said at the National Dinner, while prices are increasing for steel the competitive situation with other materials is not significantly changed. Timber and concrete for example simply do not match steel for total cost, design in use capability, pace of technological innovation and sustainability.

Nick Barrett
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