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November/December 2005 – Steel gives hospitals ‘wow’ appeal

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Steel has been making good inroads in the healthcare market over the past few years, a trend which can only be reinforced by the results from floor vibration tests which have just been carried out (click here to see story). The research completely scotches suggestions made by rivals that steel-concrete composite floors would have to be uneconomically deep to attain the required vibration performance as people walk near sensitive areas like operating theatres.

Test results show that composite floors not only meet the requirements, but do so easily and with a large margin to spare. Concrete floors are sometimes struggling to match the performance that can be expected of steel; we have heard recently that the initial vibration performance of concrete is not always maintained over time, as concrete creep has an adverse impact on performance. There are no such worries over composite floors.

Private sector healthcare providers are cottoning onto the benefits of steel, as you can read in our article on the privately financed Independent Sector Treatment Centre at Halton General Hospital in Cheshire. The need to fast track this health provision meant that there was effectively no alternative to steel.

In the mainstream National Health Service there are a large number of steel framed hospitals and treatment centres being designed or constructed. Even where steel has not been chosen for the main structural frame, as with the Evalina Children’s Hospital which we write about in this issue, steel is being selected to support architects’ ambitions for more pleasant and welcoming, even dramatic, healthcare buildings. Using steel at Evalina allowed a hospital to be created which, as the children themselves said, doesn’t feel like a hospital, which can be a crucial factor in successful medical treatment for children. And as long as the floors are made of steel, they can jump up and down on them as much as they like.

Time to practice sustainability

Launch of the Steel Construction Sustainability Charter at the Steel Construction Conference this month could not have been better timed. There is a groundswell of opinion among clients across the public and private sectors that it is time the construction industry adopted sustainable practices, and the industry needs to be able to prove that it is doing so.

Corporate social responsibility is behind the demand of some clients for sustainable buildings. The business parks sector for example sees the change partly in a growing demand for edge of town rather than out of town locations. New regulations on energy certification and the Part L Building Regulations are affecting all buildings.

Another drive may be about to come from the Olympics, as Arup Director Michael Manning warned steel stockholders recently (click here to see story). Government and the authorities involved in the Olympics see the Games as an opportunity to drive sustainability forward and the entire supply chain can expect to be asked questions which they might feel uneasy about answering. Fortunately, the steel sector has been carrying out the necessary groundwork in these areas for some years and solutions are available. Signing up to the Charter will be one way of ensuring that you know what to do to be a sustainable supplier.

Nick Barrett

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