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Steel construction quality stands out

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The entire construction team on the steel-framed Bloomberg European headquarters building in the City will be delighted to have received further recognition of their achievement in the shape of the 2018 RIBA Stirling Prize for Architecture on top of their earlier Structural Steel Design Awards success (NSC October 2018).

The Stirling Prize is one of the most coveted in world architecture, and is given only to projects that demonstrate outstanding achievement on a broad range of criteria, including design vision, innovation and originality, sustainability and client satisfaction. Chairman of the judges Sir David Adaye called the building, whose BREEAM ‘Outstanding’ rating led to it being hailed as the world’s most sustainable office building, an ‘astounding commitment to quality architecture’ (see News).

It is high praise for a project that shows steel construction at its best, one in which steelwork contractor William Hare can take great pride. Superlatives like those of Sir David are not used lightly, but they can in fact be justifiably applied fairly routinely to a wide range of steel-framed buildings and structures, and often are by grateful construction teams who clearly understand and value the virtues inherent in steel construction, including speed of construction, offsite manufacture, and just-in-time delivery of sections to congested sites.

In this issue of NSC we can find ringing endorsements for steel as a modern method of construction delivering outstanding benefits. At the University of Warwick ‘cutting edge’ sports facilities are being created for use by students and the wider community, a project described by the contractor as a ‘fantastic project’ to be part of. Using steel meant cost savings for the client and a frame erected five weeks ahead of schedule.

Speed of construction from a well tried and tested steel construction approach is also impressing at a batch of five secondary schools in the North East, where the construction programme had to be mindful of working hard up against pupils taking examinations in adjacent school buildings. The contractor had been pleased with steel’s capabilities on earlier projects and has developed a standardised steel-framed school design approach.

Steel has earned new admirers at Bishopsgate where the City of London’s tallest building, second in height only to the Shard in Western Europe, is under construction. Steel allowed engineers to design foundations around the pre-existing foundations of a cancelled project, saving time and cost.

The speed of steel construction is also impressing in Coventry, where what will be the City’s tallest two buildings are under construction. The project at Fairfax Street involves four blocks designed to accommodate 1,192 students in studio apartments.

The steel construction sector has been delivering this sort of outstanding performance for many years, but some may be worried about the potential impact of Brexit negotiations. BCSA President Tim Outteridge explains in his President’s Column why even a no-deal Brexit is in fact unlikely to cause any upset to the manufacture or availability of structural steelwork in the UK.

Nick Barrett

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