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Steel delivering value

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Our news section always carries examples of projects that highlight the benefits of using steel as a framing material. This week’s news includes a story about the building that was the first tower to reach completion in the City this year, One Angel Court. The completion dates of steel-framed buildings are more predictable than others, thanks to the higher degree of certainty on construction programmes once a steel solution is selected.

The advantages of constructing in steel are felt throughout the construction programme, and maintained throughout the life of the building or other structure. Evidence comes from press reports that a major London building that we featured in NSC several years ago, the Leadenhall Building, or ‘Cheesegrater’, has become the first City office building to be sold for £1,000 million. The purchaser is an overseas investor, proof, if any were needed, that assets made using steel hold and appreciate well in value, and the distinctive designs that steel makes possible are attractive to the investment world outside the UK.

We needn’t stay in London to see evidence of steel’s success. The projects NSC has visited this month are being built as far north as Cumbria, to Surrey in the south, as well as in Cardiff, Bristol and Oxford in between. All are outstanding examples of the wide range of buildings made possible by steel.  We look at a warehouse construction project near Bristol, for example, where 36.5 m spans will be used to provide what is believed to be the single biggest building in the south west.  Equivalent in size to 15 Wembley Stadiums, it is one of the biggest buildings in the entire UK.

Not too far from there in Cardiff, a construction programme is under way for the BBC, providing a new regional base for the broadcaster with exposed steel as a design feature. Steel is showing its cost and construction programme advantages there, replacing concrete for one of the building’s cores when increased speed was desired.

Oxford is enjoying something of a retail boom with steel being used to build the city’s largest retail development for about 10 years. Speed and ease of use in confined spaces are often reported as advantages delivered by using steel on projects of all types, and that is the case in Oxford. Future flexibility and low self-weight of the steel frame were other reasons highlighted by the construction team for selecting steel.

With all of its benefits including many sustainability advantages, steel is the most modern of methods of construction, fittingly being used to provide a new technology research centre in Surrey. Steel was selected for this project for its cost and speed advantages in particular.

Our technical article outlines the long history of the use of steel for trusses, going as far back as the Forth Bridge. Today, truss sections of 22 m length can be transported to site by road without any special travel arrangements, a key benefit to many projects that allows offsite construction in factory type controlled conditions to ensure the quality that modern construction demands. Quality has always been a feature of steel construction though – the Forth Bridge has been standing there fully operational in all its iconic glory since 1890.

Nick Barrett

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