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September 2006 – Sustainability charts the way forward

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Congratulations to the eight steelwork contractors who have become the first to be successfully audited under the BCSA’s Steel Construction Sustainability Charter. They will soon be joined by others who are currently undergoing the auditing process; eventually they will have to be joined by all companies of any ambition, as the day cannot be too far off when clients will simply refuse to have anything to do with suppliers who cannot prove their sustainability credentials.

The need for clients and others to show that they are creating sustainable developments is very strong, but some of them might struggle to define what a sustainable steel construction company should be, or know how to recognise one. The Charter provides them with the ability to do that. Charter member companies will have no problem differentiating themselves from those who think they are sustainable but who cannot prove it.

Fortunately for steel, the sustainability case has always been very strong. Steel has always been reclaimed when possible as it retains a value even when it has reached the end of its designed life, whether framing a building or supporting a bridge. Safety of erection is a big factor in the eyes of sustainability aware clients. Steel’s offsite fabrication enhances the safety case and provides relief to local communities which are subject to far fewer lorry movements and other inconveniences of having construction works undertaken nearby.

The steel sector has not rested on these laurels however and a lot of work is either underway or being planned that will ensure that the answers are always ready to the increasingly rigorous questions being asked by an environmentally aware world. One of those questions will increasingly be ‘Are you signed up to the Steel Construction Sustainability Charter?’

Further record output forecast

Record output was reported at the BCSA’s annual lunch by President Donal McCormack (see News). The really good news was that he was able to forecast more records for the next two years at least, and that is before any Olympic games effect is felt. Market share is at an all time high in key sectors and there are more gains to come.

Against the background of continuing strong demand for construction materials worldwide it is no surprise then that Corus has announced price increases for structural sections to take effect from October. How will this affect the competitive situation?

The answer from recent experience has to be very little at worst and probably not at all. In fact, with energy prices and other costs of production rising at such fast rates as we have seen recently, other construction materials might see their prices rise even more. Forthcoming research commissioned by Corus will show the competitive argument in favour of steel as strong as ever.

It is an unfortunate fact of commercial life that raw material, energy, transport and other costs are rising worldwide so steel price rises are unavoidable. The facts in favour of using steel as opposed to other materials are as undeniably sound as ever – no ‘silly season’ advertisements from rivals can alter those facts.

Nick Barrett

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