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Steel gaining international repute

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Now that the general election is behind us and a potentially stable government is in place for another five year term the wind looks to be set fair for another leg up to the recovery that has been evident in construction for some time.

Business confidence seemed to have been unnerved by the opinion poll predictions of a minority government being returned, or possibly one with an anti business outlook, so some investment plans were shifted to the backburner. That threat has been removed so all eyes are now on government making good on promises of increased infrastructure investment, which should feed through to more business investment.

Clear evidence that confidence has returned to developers can be seen in this month’s news pages where you can read about a Japanese investor – Mitsubishi Estate Company – being behind a 40 storey tower for the City, which will be steel framed. It is a rare City multi storey development that isn’t steel framed these days, thanks to steel’s long span, fast construction and offsite capabilities in particular.

Not every market in the world has caught on to the advantages of steel to the same extent as the UK, which has the world’s leading structural steel industry, but it is encouraging for designers and others who work internationally that the message has caught on with international investors like Mitsubishi, which should help promote the reputation of the structural steel sector internationally.

That strong message was certainly beamed about the world during the London Olympics and Paralympics where all the major sports buildings were made from structural steel, where construction went practically without a hitch and the exacting construction programme was easily met. Now those structures are in the process of being either dismantled or transformed for alternative post Olympic uses, again attracting international attention.

Our update in this issue on the legacy uses of these structures is a great advertisement for the flexibility of steel. The main Olympic venue had demountability designed in, so it could be easily reduced in size to avoid becoming a white elephant. Plans have changed however and instead a reconfigured stadium will house Premier League football, Rugby Union World Cup matches, and athletics events under a steel cantilevered roof that is twice the size of the original.

Demountability was proven in London as a key benefit of steel structures however and the world has taken note; the 2016 Rio Olympics will feature what is now being called ‘nomadic architecture’ on some of its venues.

Our article on the new United States embassy in London shows how easily steel construction can be adapted to other countries’ standards as the project uses both UK and US sourced steel and the connections design is US derived. Steel’s international reputation is only going to grow.

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