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November/December 2007 – Sheds lead sustainability drive

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Clients have been credited in recent years for making the running in introducing change to the construction industry. Steelwork contractors have always proven themselves to be more than willing to go the extra yard to satisfy changing client demands. Sustainability looks like being the issue that will make or break many relationships between the construction industry and its clients over the next few years and many changes in practices will be needed if sustainability targets are to be met.

More than a few of the steelwork sector’s enlightened clients are only too keen to set the pace of sustainable change and keeping up with them – maybe on occasion even getting ahead – will reap large benefits. The sheds sector is often buried under its own modesty, sometimes giving the impression of being embarrassed about providing such humble structures, despite their being vital to the national economy. Shed developers however have been taking a lead in innovation and improving sustainability.

For example, ProLogis is expected to shortly unveil detailed plans for two 1M sq ft distribution buildings in Corby that will be split between several tenants. New UK sheds are almost always single occupier facilities but the new approach offers more flexibility, which should mean more efficient use of resources. Steel makes the flexibility possible, with internal partitions being easily erected and de-assembled as tenancies demand.

Some developers have been accused of using sustainability as a crude marketing gimmick, making a few tweaks to allow them to claim improved consumption of energy and water. The constructional steelwork sector’s main clients however have embarked on a serious attempt to devise meaningful and credible standards for the sustainability of sheds.

Initial meetings have reached agreements on the dimensions and shape of a baseline building upon which calculations will be based. Developers are responding to their own clients, such as large retailers, for evidence that all efforts that can be made to reduce carbon footprints are being taken. Developers expect to be able to generate a better yield from the buildings with improved sustainability credentials that result. It is not only the developer industry big names that are driving this and fairly soon even the smallest developers will be measuring the sustainability of their supply chain. Are you sure that you are ready for this though? Members of the BCSA’s Sustainability Charter are.

Steel’s success story far from over
Sustainability is on the minds of people at all levels in the constructional steelwork sector, not the least of whom is the outgoing Director of the Steel Construction Institute, Dr Graham Owens, as he says in his Profile on p12. His 21 years at the SCI provided a grandstand seat of one of the most remarkable construction success stories of recent times, the growth of steel to dominance of key sectors of the construction market.

From small beginnings and with an uncertain budget outlook, the SCI has grown in stature to become the leading organisation of its type in the world. The UK constructional steelwork sector is the envy of the steel world, and the SCI has played no little part in that success.

Dr Owens hopes to find time to pursue some recreational sailing and other hobbies while continuing with consultancy work for SCI before taking the role of President of the Institution of Structural Engineers in 2009, a fitting way to round off the career of a structural engineer who was dedicated to the promotion of structural steelwork design. As Dr Owens says, the success story of constructional steelwork is far from over; but he can take great satisfaction from the chapter that he helped write.

Nick Barrett

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