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Steel’s winning ways

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The construction industry’s clients have never been more cost conscious than they are today, always alert for ways of keeping a lid on final project prices. Against a rapidly changing background of rising input costs, not helped by volatile currency movements, who can blame them?

The steel sector’s latest contribution to managing costs better is being distributed with this issue of NSC and several other key construction industry magazines. Our Cost supplement, based on a new series of quarterly updated studies from AECOM, BCSA and Steel for Life, is part of a commitment to provide the essential guidance needed to provide accurate costs for building frames.

Surveys have confirmed that cost is often the key driver in selecting framing materials, and the steel sector’s analysis of decisions made in the real world has revealed that it is easy to fail to undertake a proper cost analysis, thereby producing an inaccurate cost estimate. While the frame only accounts for 10% of a building’s cost, it can influence other costs such as foundations and should always be properly estimated.

Steel is usually expected to provide the cost-effective option when all the relevant factors are properly considered, which is why over 90% of single storey industrial buildings and around 70% of multi-storey buildings are framed in steel. Some decision making processes however are not as robust as they should be. The outcome can be cost estimates that are too high, creating disappointment when decisions on whether to proceed with a project are being taken; or too low, guaranteeing a shocked client when tenders are returned.

It is obviously in everybody’s interests that cost analyses are properly undertaken, providing the basis for good decision making. Comprehensive cost guidance is provided by this regularly updated series – that can be found on – across five key sectors – offices, education, mixed-use, retail and industrial.

Key advantages of steel framing that affect project cost and profitability are discussed in the new Cost supplement including column-free floorplates, adaptability, offsite manufacture, services integration, low self-weight and construction programme benefits.

Involving the steelwork contractor at an early stage can sometimes mean initial cost estimates turn out to have been unduly pessimistic, as we see in this issue of NSC where REIDsteel was able to refine the original design of a hospitality suite at Thruxton Circuit in Hampshire by replacing some large roof beams with cantilevering purlins instead.

Examples of that sort of cost advantage are everyday occurrences on steel construction projects, as we regularly see reported in our project profiles.

Also in this issue we see an innovative design for a major distribution project, in a sector where cost can make or break developments, said to be setting a new benchmark for the industry. The speed of steel construction is one of those cost factors that can sometimes be overlooked, but it was a major plus on this project, where it took Severfield just ten weeks to erect a frame for a building that could accommodate ten football pitches. If a building can be offered faster and for less, everyone’s a winner.

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