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Surveys show 25 years of steel’s success

Total Market Share, Great Britain 1980-2005

The headline news from the 2005 Market Shares Survey is that steel’s share of the multi storey non-residential buildings market for frames has reached 70% for the first time. But there is much else in the survey to bring cheer to steelwork contractors, Nick Barrett finds.

This is the 25th in a series of market surveys undertaken by independent market research company Construction Markets, during which time steel’s market share for multi storey frames has risen from 33% to its current position of preference among designers and clients. It is worth stressing that although the survey is commissioned by Corus, it is produced independently by Construction Markets, well known for a range of other market research projects for clients across the construction sector.

The original study 25 years ago was to provide market share data for the total market, subdivided by offices and ‘other buildings’, broken down also by number of storeys. Not much has changed there. The research also establishes the market shares of insitu and precast concrete, load bearing masonry and timber. Construction Markets investigates two broad building sectors, offices and ‘other buildings’, the latter category comprising retail, leisure, industrial, education, health, other public and other private. Obviously there have been marked changes over time in the relative importance of the components of the other buildings category that reflect the UK’s changing economy and hence demand for buildings.

Regarding the overall market, the survey found that in 2005 the market rose 7.4% to 13.26M square metres of floor area built. The offices market increased to 3.85M square metres of space, a 2.9% rise. Other buildings showed more marked growth, of 9.4% to 9.36M square metres.

Steel’s share of the overall market reached 70% for the first time, up from 69.2%. Pre cast concrete fell again to a 2.2% share, from 2.8% in 2004, while insitu concrete managed a marginal increase to a 16.9% share.

In the offices sector steel increased market share to 71.9% with insitu concrete showing a marginal fall to 20.7% and pre cast up to 2.5%.

A significant rise was seen in the other buildings category, where steel’s market share rose to 70.4% – in a rising market – from 68.2% in 2004. Market share there has been captured from precast concrete and load bearing masonry.

Another notable change over time that we can see from the survey concerns the market share in the different heights. It used to be that steel had a very strong share of the low rise market, and this fell off appreciably the higher the building got. This tradition has changed substantially. Steel now has over 85% of the market for three storey office buildings and 74% for six storeys and over.

In the other buildings category steel enjoys a near 72% market share at two storeys and over 75% for six storeys and over.

Reasons for this success? The survey does not cover that, but it is clear that steel is preferred as a framing material by the overwhelming majority of clients. Corus General Manager Alan Todd said: ”The survey proves that the traditional benefits of steel as a framing material, like speed, flexibility and cost predictability, are well recognised in the market.

“It is crucial though that we keep up our industry wide technical and market development efforts to ensure we can retain and build on the success of the past 25 years. Increasingly this will mean dealing with new factors such as the wider sustainability benefits of steel, making sure those messages are properly delivered to the market.”

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