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Survey confirms steel’s dominance

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Steel is still the construction framing material of choice for the key multi-storey and single storey non-residential buildings markets according to the latest in a long line of independent market surveys.

Researchers at Construction Markets confirm that steel has increased its market share in key sectors, albeit against a background of falling demand overall with only rare bright spots.

The overall market for structural frames fell 2.7% to just under 42,000,000m². Steel’s share of the total market was over 43%. Insitu and precast concrete between them took a market share of under 7%.

Steel still dominates the multi-storey office buildings market with a market share of over 70% for buildings of two storeys and over. The taller the buildings get the more steel dominates, with a share of almost 79% for buildings of six storeys and over. Steel’s market share has risen against a background of a fairly steep fall in this sector of some 20%. The nearest rival to steel was insitu concrete with a market share of less than 22%.

Multi-storey public education buildings exhibited a strong preference for steel with a market share of 62.9%, although the overall market eased with a 1.1% fall. The multi-storey public health buildings market suffered a fall of 23%, although steel enjoyed by far the largest slice of the market, its share of 46% being more than twice that of nearest rival insitu concrete.

The multi-storey other public buildings sector fell overall by over 2% with publicly funded leisure buildings the only growth spot in the sector. Multi-storey other private buildings showed a fall of 9.5%. This sector includes private education and, as a result of the Free Schools programme, this sector now accounts for over 70% of the total ‘other private sector’. Steel had a 65.3% market share of this sector.

Steel’s greatest market preference lies in the huge sheds sector, which was a rare bright spot last year, showing a rise of almost 3%. Steel increased the area of floor covered by over 2.5% and maintained a dominant market share of well over 90%.

In the ‘conventional single storey non-domestic buildings’ market, which includes public and private health and education buildings, retail, leisure and offices, there was a fall of almost 4%, but steel increased its share to almost 65% from 63.5% the year before.

Overall the survey paints a subdued picture of the construction market, albeit one in which steel is confidently holding its own in the key sectors. There seems little doubt that Brexit related uncertainties have resulted in development projects stalling or being postponed rather than cancelled outright. Forecasts from industry experts suggest that 2019 will be another challenging year.

Against that background the steel sector is encouraged by the report’s confirmation of its market position as still overwhelmingly the preferred solution for structural frames in key sectors. The BCSA’s members are poised to respond to any pick up in construction demand.

Nick Barrett

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