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Steel delivers excellence whether in or out of the office

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A lot of property market attention has understandably been focussed since the pandemic on whether the demand for offices will suffer structural change because of working from home. More recently hopes have been raised that demand will soon start to rise again, as even large internet firms start to insist on office attendance for at least a few days a week.

Reports conflict about what is happening, with some still insisting that the days of attending an office five days a week are over, and others saying that a strong return to the office is already underway. NSC’s crystal ball is no more clear on this than anyone else’s, and all we can say really is that time will tell.

An annual Chief Executive Officer (CEO) poll from accountants KPMG in October however showed that nearly two thirds of them believed that workers will return to the office five days a week within the next three years. Even more CEOs thought that pay and promotions could become linked to office attendance, which could be a key driver of a back-to-the-office increase.

If the CEOs are right, providing aesthetically pleasing, carbon efficient, modern offices that staff will find attractive to work in is going to become even more important than ever. Constructional steelwork had been at the forefront of the pre pandemic drive to create office spaces that meet those needs, and will certainly be the preferred solution for the next generation of offices.

Offices aren’t everything though and other sectors of the economy still see healthy demand for new and refurbished buildings and structures of many different types. The Structural Steel Design Awards this year showed again that steel is the preferred choice for creating a diverse range of buildings and other structures like bridges. Some buildings are of course only possible because of steel.

This issue of NSC contains good examples of the high standard of sustainable buildings that will be pleasant to work in. Life Sciences is a burgeoning sector and we visit a new steel-framed Life Sciences building under construction at Edge Hill University. Steel is at the heart of major de-carbonisation development plans at the site.

We also look at a net zero standard, state-of-the-art primary school and nursery underway at Maldon Garden Suburb, Essex.

BREEAM ‘Excellent’ is also being pursued for an extension to ExCel, the major London venue, which thanks to its design and the use of steel – including 50% recycled steel – will be ‘net zero carbon ready’.

BREEAM ‘Excellent’ standard offices are still being developed up and down the UK, like the First Street development in Manchester. Wellbeing as well as sustainability is being pursued here, both likely to be key factors as workers consider returning to offices – the Government Property Agency certainly thinks they will as it has taken a 25 year lease on the building.

There is an encouraging pipeline of projects like these. In our News section there is a story about planning permission being granted for a major logistics hub in south London, well placed to serve central London office workers with ‘last mile’ deliveries, should they be back at the office. NSC’s crystal ball is clear enough to predict a continuing key role for constructional steelwork in creating the education, work and leisure developments of the future.

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