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SSDA Judges impressed by sustainability deep analysis

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Steel can unarguably claim to be a sustainable construction material like no other, with almost all constructional steelwork being recycled if not reused, and the buildings made from it easily repurposed or extended.

The projects granted recognition in the 2021 Structural Steel Design Awards have exemplified the great qualities of steel throughout the history of the Awards, now in their sixth decade. This year is no exception, as can be seen in the SSDA coverage in this issue of NSC. High sustainability qualities can be seen in all of them, but this year the Judges spotted an encouraging trend – design and construction teams aren’t just sitting back and assuming they are doing well on sustainability just by choosing steel – although of course they are – but they are undertaking well considered evaluations of their designs and construction plans to make sure they are doing all they can.

Climate change is now widely accepted as the greatest challenge facing our way of life, even greater than the pandemic that the world has struggled against for the past 18 months or so. Science looks like having won the pandemic battle by creating vaccines, but combatting climate change will take a lot longer and an even more sizeable amount of world GDP will have to be diverted towards the solutions.

The steel manufacturing industry is playing its part in reducing carbon emissions all along its supply chain, and it is no surprise to see the construction sector – at least as represented by those who made the SSDA shortlist – taking its responsibilities seriously. Chairman of the Judges Chris Nash said he and his fellow Judges were impressed to see projects that reflected re-use of existing structures, as well as commitment to examining the real impact of construction on carbon use by deep analysis.

The Judges again had to respect COVID-19 restrictions and conduct their judging using remote meetings technology, rather than making the site visits that have always been a key part of the judging process, one of the things that sets the SSDA apart from other awards. Hopefully, next year site visits will again be possible and the judges can revert to what for them is a highlight, actually seeing up-close the best of steel construction and meeting the construction teams involved in person.

As is always the case, the winners comprise a highly varied range of project sizes and types, this year including large City office developments and beautiful bridges. The highly impressive shortlist comprised 20 projects found worthy of selection, and that was whittled down to four Award winning projects, with another seven gaining Commendations and four more being given Merits.

Construction teams might justifiably feel their efforts in successfully delivering projects for once might deserve as much, if not more, recognition than the projects themselves receive, given the challenges they had to overcome against a background of restricted work practices forced on them by COVID-19.

As UK National Sales Manager Steven Insley of SSDA sponsors Trimble Solutions said at the Awards ceremony, the past year has challenged the industry and wider society in ways not previously experienced. “The ability of the industry to continue to deliver projects of this quality in an ever-changing world, leveraging technology for design for manufacture and assembly, is truly inspirational,” he said. Nobody could reasonably argue with that.

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