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Steel at the centre of communities

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Hardly a major development these days doesn’t feature a centrepiece, sometimes iconic, structure that anchors the project in the public imagination and shows the world what great design can achieve. Nearly all of them will feature the use of structural steelwork to make the realisation of the architect’s vision possible, and the task of the construction team easier.

Some excellent examples can be seen in NSC this month, such as a new benchmark for City offices being developed at Fenchurch Street. The City skyline remains busy with tower cranes despite the Brexit-related uncertainties of the past few years, but the cranes used here are lower than passers-by may have been used to as the development is a relatively modest 15 storeys high, considerably less than the norm for City commercial schemes. The developers see the EightyFen development as a interesting alternative to the usual towering multi-storeys and are hoping to achieve a BREEAM ‘Excellent’ rating.

Exposing external structural elements has become a popular theme in the past few years, but EightyFen also makes a virtue of steelwork internally, leaving all seven internal columns exposed as a design feature that showcases the beauty of steel.

New communities are being created across the UK to accommodate a growing population, sometimes regenerating redundant land previously used by industry or the UK’s defence establishment. One of the latter is underway in Surrey where the former army barracks at Deepcut is being redeveloped to create a new community of some 1,200 houses with essential village amenities like shops and a pub. One of the first amenities being created for the new community at Mindenhurst is a steel-framed primary school for up to 420 children. Its striking design is intended to act as a landmark for the entire new community, and its shape and long spans could only have been created with steel.

Growing school populations have also created a need for a new Leeds school that we feature this month, accommodating 1,000 children of all ages from four to 16. Flexibility in classroom configuration will be needed to allow for potential changes in the needs of any large school, but even more so when such a large range of age groups are involved.

New schools will also feature as centrepieces at the former British Steel steelworks site at Ravenscraig in Lanarkshire, where a thriving community has already been created thanks to regeneration developments over the past ten years or so, carried out in partnership between Scottish Enterprise, Tata Steel and Wilson Bowden. In News this month we report on planning approval for a new masterplan for the next stage of the site’s regeneration that will significantly build on what has already been achieved with new schools, housing, offices and retail space. A steel-framed college campus features as a key element of what has already been achieved at Ravenscraig, and we look forward to bringing you news of future developments.

Nick Barrett

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