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Steel provides solutions in a fast-changing world

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Nothing stays still in the commercial property world for long, although one fairly constant feature is the preference for steel construction for most multi-storey and high-profile projects. Developers who chose steel framing solutions in the past are reaping further benefits from their original wisdom, as major properties are being reconfigured to suit changing uses, and the opportunity to easily add vertically is often being seized on.

We see examples of this frequently in the pages of NSC, this month at Canary Wharf whose development in the late 1980’s and 1990’s set the pace for so much of what followed. One of the biggest changes though is the consideration that can be given to alternative uses of the space, both the original and the new additions. New space being provided on top of the old 30 South Colonnade is designed to allow for multiple potential uses, from Boardroom meetings to yoga sessions, or any of the other new uses that versatile space can be put to as employers increasingly recognise that they have to offer at-work facilities to attract and retain staff.

Piled foundations of steel-framed buildings frequently have spare capacity, despite having originally been smaller than they would have been had concrete been used as a framing material. Time on the construction programme, as well as money, is saved as result, allowing three floors to be added to the original 10-storey 30 South Colonnade, for example, while the original floors are stripped back to the structural frame and reconfigured.

Steel is often chosen for its offsite capabilities on congested sites, keeping nuisance to adjacent building users to a minimum, with fabricated steelwork brought to site only when required for swift and safe erection. Seldom is this more important than at a site such as the new five-storey clinical block at Evalina London Children’s Hospital, sandwiched between the busy St Thomas’ Hospital the existing Evalina hospital, which is featured in this issue.

In our other healthcare article this month we read about the reasons why steel is going to be so valuable for meeting the challenge of the government’s ambitious commitment to provide 40 new hospitals by 2030. This is being hailed as the biggest hospital building programme for a generation and will promote the use of modern methods of construction – modular construction and offsite construction in particular. This is welcome news to the steel sector as it has been emphasising that it is a modern method of construction for a long time.

Other welcome aspects of the New Hospital Programme will be a focus on quality and value for money. Steel’s ability to meet or exceed vibration performance demands of the health service has been soundly established for over 15 years. All new hospitals are certain to be designed and built using Building Information Modelling which steelwork contractors have long experience of.

Flexibility will also be a key demand and hospitals will have to be designed to be adaptable and easily converted to changing uses. Future expansion may be vertical as well as horizontal and this will have to be allowed for in designs – again favouring steel solutions as we see in this month’s Canary Wharf article. Whatever changes in building user demands the future brings, the solution is often going to be steel.

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