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Shortlist shows world-leading steelwork

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As BCSA President Mark Denham pointed out in his speech at the National Dinner in June, the past few years have been challenging times for the construction industry. Coping with the implications of Brexit and then the COVID-19 pandemic stretched all industries, but construction pulled through in relatively good shape. The value of a reliable and well proven supply chain such as the steel construction sector’s was clearly shown, but hopes for a few years of stability were dashed when Russia invaded Ukraine, sparking off new problems of material shortages and now steep and general price inflation.

Since the President’s speech further uncertainty has been created by the imminent change of UK government, preceded by the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer reportedly disagreeing over whether to prioritise tax cuts or increased public spending. Planning for the future with any confidence in the midst of upheavals like these has been a major corporate challenge of our times.

The constructional steelwork sector, as the President said, is in robust good shape and is well prepared to tackle whatever challenges might arise. The sector hopes that recent commitments made to sustainability by the government will survive any change in Prime Minister or any other Cabinet post, because an increased focus on sustainability can only help spread the word that steel is the most sustainable of all construction materials. The BCSA’s Roadmap to Net Zero has spelled out the sector’s own commitment to achieving those goals, and how it intends to achieve it.

Steel construction already demonstrates high sustainability values as publication of the shortlist for the Structural Steel Design Awards (SSDA) shows (see News). The SSDA is one of the most keenly anticipated events of the structural engineering year – as it has been now for an impressive 54 years. Securing an Award is a valuable recognition of the skill and effort that goes into creating one of these outstanding structures. As well as helping with marketing of steelwork contractors, architects, engineers and contractors, the Awards are valued as recognition from within the steelwork construction peer group.

The shortlist is as good an advertisement for the achievements of an industry as can be found anywhere in the steel construction world; the UK steel construction sector is envied internationally. There isn’t a single project on the shortlist this year – or any other year for that matter – that fails to demonstrate steel’s ability to deliver a highly sustainable achievement. That is as true whether the project is a large multi-storey office or retail development, a leisure centre, a landmark footbridge, an emergency services headquarters building, a school, industrial facilities serving growth industries, or nationally important sports facilities.

Threats always exist to the continuing ability of any industry to deliver at its best, but at the time of writing at least there is nothing in view that looks likely to knock the UK’s steel construction sector seriously off course. Complacency is always a threat, but the BCSA’s extensive programme of ongoing technical and market development proves that is not likely to overtake the sector.

There are several steps that could be taken by the wider industry and its clients to further support the steel sector’s ability to continue delivering quality projects like those on the shortlist, as alluded to in successive statements from BCSA Presidents and officers. Chief among them of course is to insist on using a BCSA member steelwork contractor. It is no accident that most of those involved in shortlisted projects are members. Can non-BCSA members consistently cut it in this company? Draw your own conclusions.

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