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Sustainability drives steel market share

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The Market for Structures – Non-Residential Multi-Storey Buildings – Total

Constructional steelwork is still the framing material of choice for the overwhelming majority of the market. This is proven by the latest annual Construction Market Shares survey – the 27th in the series – from independent researchers Construction Markets.

Prices of all construction materials have risen but steel has retained its competitive advantage in the market place, even when only crude initial cost comparisons are made. Factoring in the many other financial, construction programme, flexibility  and sustainability benefits of steel gives an overwhelming advantage that few would want to resist.

The survey is conducted by contacting some 600 specifiers, making it the biggest of its type carried out in the UK. Steel passed the 70% level for share of the multi storey buildings market for the first time in 2004, and the 2007 survey shows that steel remains at these record levels.

Steel had a near 72% share of the key multi storey offices market in 2007, with nearest rival in-situ concrete remaining  below 20%, a level it fell below in 2003 after having a market share of over 28% about a decade ago. The strong performance of steel is all the more valuable for being achieved in a growing market. The total multi storey buildings market grew by 8%, but the offices market grew by over 22% to over five million metres of floorspace.

There was less marked growth in the ‘other buildings’ category, which includes retail, leisure, education and health buildings, but rises in retail and leisure counterbalanced falls in education and healthcare so overall growth in that sector was 1.6%.

The sheds market is still strong and remains dominated by steel. Steel sheds are getting bigger, reflecting fundamental shifts in the UK economy and trading patterns that demand more and larger logistical facilities. Shed developers are increasingly driven by sustainability, and when they come to assess their sustainability cases for projects are finding that steel has benefits that they hadn’t even noticed before.

“Throughout the market, people are waking up to the fact that steel has a very strong sustainability case that has perhaps been overlooked when the focus was more on things like the cost and programme advantages of using steel,” says Alan Todd, General Manager Corus Construction Services and Development. “Corus and the rest of the steel supply chain are working hard to ensure that there is a continuous improvement in the sustainability benefits of steel.

“Independent studies show that steel construction causes less carbon emissions than alternative framing materials. When you also consider the recyclability and reusability advantages of steel we can only expect to benefit more as the market shifts to sustainable solutions.”

Mr Todd added that there are a number of initiatives under way within the steel construction sector that will enlighten more designers and clients on the benefits of selecting steel as a structural framing solution. “The competitive advantage of steel is already well appreciated by designers, clients and specifiers, as the Market Shares Survey shows, but there are other advantages, many associated with sustainability, that we will be trying to get across through marketing efforts and the technical support that we provide to designers.”

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