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Steel sheds support pandemic strategies

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The Editor’s Comment in NSC a year ago struck an optimistic note in suggesting that there seemed to be some good news ahead in the COVID-19 battle. It was early days, and as it turned out there was a long, hard way to go, but a fall in the rate of increase in new cases at that time was a welcome respite from what had so far been almost non-stop bad news relating to the pandemic.

The light at the end of tunnel turned out to be another tunnel however, and there were further lockdowns to come. But construction sites still managed to operate, and the industry has since been acknowledged as having played a courageous role, keeping sites working and essential services functioning.

BCSA called for clients, main contractors, specialists, sub-contractors and sub-subcontractors to play their part through mutual respect for each other’s situations and acknowledge that human life is more important than construction programmes. Contractors managed to ensure that sites remained open, and health and safety precautions to prevent the spread of the virus seem to have been widely observed.

A year on, the prospects are looking bright again with vaccines being deployed and economic forecasts sounding positive notes. Steelwork contractors report that after a four-month period of uncertainty last Spring-early Summer, demand started to revive. Some sectors have grown strongly since then, in particular sheds as we detail in our article this month.

Steel is uniquely suited to creating sheds, now called the Industrial and Logistics market by the property industry. This market had to grow rapidly in response to an urgent need for storage and distribution facilities to support expansion in online shopping as non-essential shops were forced to close, and worried shoppers stayed away even from the supermarkets which were allowed to open.

The sheds sector continues to grow but other sectors either already know or are learning that steel is the best suited material for them. As we see throughout this issue of NSC, steel is the material of first choice for the widest range of buildings and other structures across the UK, including multi-storey commercial buildings, such as the 18-storey Bankside Yards tower being built on London’s South Bank where 14 metre spans were desired, and a steel frame’s lighter self-weight also helped swing the designers away from concrete alternatives.

New types of facilities are being built while we wait for lockdown relaxation to allow their use, as we see at Oldham where an Olympic standard climbing centre is being built to cater for the growing craze for this sport. A more established Olympics event, swimming, is being catered for along with a wide range of other sports at a leisure centre at Barnstaple. Steel allowed excavation of the swimming pool to be carried out after the frame was erected, saving costs.

Proof of the resumed growth of the speculative shed development mentioned in our sheds article can be seen in our project report from Edinburgh where the uninterrupted clear spans in three steel-framed industrial blocks will provide great flexibility for a range of tenants, while achieving a more favourable carbon footprint than alternative framing materials. We look forward to telling readers more about steel’s outstanding sustainability benefits as the recovery from the pandemic continues

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