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Steel supports collaborative future

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Recent advances in technology have made steel an even more attractive material for use in construction than ever before, as ArcelorMittal pointed out in its launch of Steligence™ (see News). Steel construction has been an enthusiastic and early adopter of new technologies that enhance its cost and quality offer, and is always looking for new ways to drive the next generation of high performance, high sustainability buildings.

Arguably all steel buildings built today are high performance, most obviously when compared to those framed with alternative materials, and even to steel buildings of the not too distant past. Efficiency advances in fabrication have gone hand-in-hand with the development of more efficient structural designs and new steels to greatly expand the possibilities of architectural ambition and vision. But there is much more to come.

One of the keys to creating this new generation of buildings will be enhanced cooperation and dialogue between the client, the design team and the steelwork contractors. Increased cooperation and collaboration is increasingly recognised as a major thing that the construction industry can do itself to improve its performance, which chimes with the messages delivered by BCSA President Tim Outteridge in his inaugural speech to the Association’s National Dinner.

A major theme of Tim’s presidency is reform of some of the damaging procurement related practices that have long bedevilled construction. Recent contractor insolvency has highlighted the damage done by ingrained practices like retentions, late selection of specialists, and playing one subcontractor off against another with an over-focus on price.

That focus has led on occasion, as Tim pointed out, to the selection of blatantly unqualified steelwork contractors that lack proper expertise, qualifications, processes and appropriately trained workforces, leading to time and money being wasted somewhere else on the construction programme.

Using a BCSA member is of course still the best way to ensure that a steelwork contractor has the skills and experience needed for a particular project, as most clients recognise. Increasingly it will become obvious to the market that only steelwork suppliers that are properly set up to achieve the quality of work that BCSA membership demands will be able to play a proper role in a post-Carillion, collaborative construction world.

Developers and main contractors who have already taken advantage of the opportunities presented by increased collaboration with their own supply chains and other partners report a major competitive advantage, being able to balance the delivery of client needs against programme and cost. Reduced cost and shorter construction programmes are routinely delivered by engaging with specialists like steelwork contractors early in the process.

The case for involving specialist subcontractors early is easy to make; design, buildability and project planning have all been proven to benefit. Another benefit is that trust and mutual respect are fostered, which will surely have to be fully established if all the other benefits of modern construction are to be realised. That cycle of trust has to start now and the best way of getting it off to a good start on your projects is to respond positively to BCSA President Tim Outterridge’s call and appoint your specialist contractors early.

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