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Steel tops market share survey

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The latest survey of the UK market for structural frames (see News) confirms that steel solutions have the confidence of the overwhelming majority of clients, designers and contractors for buildings as diverse as multi-storey offices and single storey industrial sheds.

Steel increased its always dominant market share in these sectors in 2016, as independent  research from Construction Markets shows. The market preference for steel is most marked in single  storey non-domestic buildings where steel’s share is a striking 88.5%, and over 98% in the industrial buildings subsector.

Investment in industrial buildings has been very strong in the past few years and steel has played a key role in providing new production and storage facilities for major development programmes by companies like car manufacturers, and for distribution facilities for online retailers.

Steel provided the frames for a rising share of the multi-storey non-domestic buildings market, over 66%. In the key offices part of the multi-storey non-domestic buildings market steel’s market share rose to around 72%.

Brexit might pose a question over the prospects for 2017 and beyond but the outlook for steel frames and other steel structures looks reasonably secure.  An encouraging note is struck in the latest crane survey from Deloitte (see News) which shows that activity in the offices sector has reached the levels of 10 years ago, and strong demand has spread outside London and the south east to regional centres like Birmingham, Leeds, Manchester and Belfast. There was a rise of 50% last year in the office space under construction in Birmingham, for example. All of which, as the market shares survey suggests, is good for steel.

Government has affirmed its support for the steel sector recently with procurement changes that allow proper consideration to be given to the wider social and economic impact of choice of suppliers on major infrastructure contracts. Cabinet Office minister Ben Gummer said the procurement changes create a more level playing field for UK steel sector in winning these contracts.

The government says it plans to use three million tonnes of steel in infrastructure projects by 2020, and it will publish a forward pipeline of steel projects to provide steelwork contractors and the steel supply chain generally with more clarity than ever before on public sector demand for fabricated steelwork.

Mr Gummer said he doesn’t want contracts going abroad if the best value for money bid is a British bid, with all the social and economic benefits that brings, which is welcome and overdue news. Whatever the demand conditions, UK and Irish steelwork contractors will continue to provide the world-leading, best in class service demanded by the UK construction market.

Nick Barrett

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