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New chapters in steel’s success story

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Recent surveys show that the construction market has paused for breath after a strong run lasting several years (see News). Brexit and the business cycle together may have conspired to slow things down, but only for a while.

Steel’s success in serving the construction sector is a story that has been running for some 40 years now. Clues to the likely plot of the next chapters are easily found in the pages of NSC and in today’s market.

Opportunities are growing in infrastructure for example, growth markets that steel is uniquely positioned to provide innovative solutions for. HS2 will need steel for stations, bridges and other structures, as well as the world-class railway track produced by UK steelmakers.

The sector has always been forward looking and has been an early adopter of what are still regarded elsewhere as new techniques. Offsite production, for example, has been getting a lot of attention recently as something that the construction industry as a whole needs to adopt. The steel sector has always had the ability to produce offsite in factory conditions, bringing sections to site only when needed and in sizes that are only restricted by lorry load and site constraints. In this issue of NSC we have a 40-storey commercial development that involved over 6,500 individual pieces of steel fabricated offsite and brought to the City for assembly only when needed.

Steel’s offsite advantages – always delivered as part and parcel of the normal service from steelwork contractors – will increasingly come into their own. Any large scale expansion of Heathrow airport, for example, will take advantage of steel’s offsite production potential, with the project to be serviced from logistics hubs as far away from the airport as perhaps British Steel’s Scunthorpe site, as we also mention in News.

Design guidance continues to flow from Steel for Life, the SCI and the BCSA. Recent publications have included the Brittle fracture guide and a guide for The design of cast-in plates for connecting structural steel beams to concrete core walls. This month we report on the publication of the third in a series of model answers for engineers preparing for the IStructE chartered membership examination. They present steel solutions for selected questions posed in previous examinations.

In this month’s issue we also find the All England Lawn Tennis Club so pleased with their innovative retractable steel roof installed over Wimbledon’s Centre Court a few years ago that they have commissioned a similarly designed one for No.1 Court. Stories about repeat orders from satisfied clients could fill steel construction history books of their own.

Looking ahead to the rest of the year we obviously hope that the construction sector will soon start to expand again. When it does, steel construction will be as fully prepared as it has always been to meet the rapidly changing demands of its customers, and to support construction professionals involved in designing in steel.

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