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Sustainable steel supports forward thinkers

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This issue of NSC provides a snapshot of many of the challenges facing the construction industry and its clients as we emerge from the second COVID-19 lockdown; and reveals more than a few reasons to be cheerful.

Predictions of the death of the office seem to have been a tad premature, at least judging from the evidence of the developer optimism that underpins our story on the construction of the 50-storey tower at 8 Bishopsgate in the City of London. Any list of areas likely to suffer from a permanent exodus of staff to working at home in spare rooms, broom cupboards – or even on beds as many younger people are having to do – would have until recently featured the City.

Yet developer plans are being advanced for new City buildings and views on the future of the office from property experts have undergone a shift from the gloomy prognostications of only a few months ago. Some reduction in the office needs of many companies might be expected as the idea of a working week split between office and home is tried out, and repurposing of at least parts of some buildings might be required. But there is no sign of the mass permanent exodus predicted at the start of the pandemic.

COVID-19 might well be with us permanently, and other pandemics might flare up, which might even mean more office space is needed to accommodate social distancing. Owners and users of steel-framed buildings are at an advantage of course due to the inherent flexibility of steel, and the ease of reconfiguring to allow changed uses. There might be a shift in priority from services designed to heat and cool buildings to services that can ensure the healthy air changes that can limit the circulation of viruses, and retrofitting these will be relatively straightforward with cellular beam construction.

Building back greener will create more buildings with the sustainability ambitions of 8 Bishopsgate, which will be the tallest in the UK so far to achieve a BREEAM ‘Outstanding’ rating and is being said to be the UK’s most sustainable commercial tower. With 30% less structural embodied carbon than London tall building benchmarks, 8 Bishopsgate is a stand-out development in many ways. Buildings like this are better able to project a corporate culture that others are attracted to do business with and to work for, and will be in demand by the more forward-thinking companies.

Any doubts that the recovery will be ‘green’ have surely disappeared now the Government has just adopted a new legally-binding target of a 78% reduction in carbon emissions by 2035 on the path to net-zero. The vital role that steel will play in achieving these targets can be seen throughout any issue of NSC. For example, in this issue we have the Newhurst Energy Recovery facility that will divert non-recyclable waste from landfill to create low-carbon energy instead, and Energy House 2 that can test the effectiveness of new construction products and systems at lowering carbon emissions.

With the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions still on track for June 21, positive forecasts for growth across many sectors, and sustainable steel construction leading the ‘green’ recovery, optimism about the year ahead is justified.

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