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The smart choice for innovation is steel

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As outgoing BCSA President Mark Denham notes in his President’s column this month, we have lived in interesting times for the past few years with challenges from COVID-19, Brexit, war in Ukraine, and rampant inflation to name but a few.

The challenges are all being risen to, but it is certain that new and unsuspected ones to be grappled with are already approaching the horizon. We are also living in fast-changing times. Not that long ago current board level priorities like sustainability, net zero carbon, building fire safety, skills shortages, and diversity would have been far away from the thinking of the upper levels of senior management. Today, these are major boardroom concerns and ignoring them risks that other new sounding concern – reputational damage.

One tried and tested strategy to protect reputations, especially as regards anything sustainability related, is to select structural steelwork as the framing solution for buildings and other structures. The message is catching on, as we see in the high proportion of steel frames being chosen for the latest growth surge in London.

After an unsteady start to the year confidence seems to be returning to the London commercial market. The latest Tall Buildings Survey of projects planned or being built in London from New London Architecture shows confidence has returned, to the Capital at least. Planners are reported to be about as busy as ever with planning applications and construction of buildings of over 75m.

NLA says there have been six approvals in the last two years for schemes up to 309m, with two in planning, another four possible by the end of the year and another two in early talks. At NSC’s editorial advisory board meeting this month our round-the-table discussion revealed an encouraging list of forthcoming and current projects across the UK. As far as steel is concerned, as we can see in this month’s NSC, confidence never went away.

From Bolton we report on a vitally needed new facility to train up to 3,000 students a year to enter clinical healthcare sector, and provide a high boost to the local economy. Steel was chosen particularly for its cost-effective, speedy construction, on a site within a working hospital where impact on patients and healthcare professionals had to be minimised.

We report on steelwork being completed on the UK’s biggest ever speculative warehouse development, at Avonmouth. Sustainability is at the heart of this project on a brownfield site which is looking for a BREEAM ‘Excellent’ rating.

From One Leadenhall we report on the City of London’s latest high-rise commercial development. As our report from the 35-storey site says, there is a continuing flow of high-rise office blocks underway or planned, amid reports of a shortage of Grade A space. BREEAM ‘Outstanding’ is the objective on this project.

Design efficiency, flexibility to accommodate changing requirements in the future and low carbon benefits have been cited by the construction team as key advantages of a light steel structure selected for an office block at the University of Oxford’s Life and Mind Building. Crucially, the pleasing structure will create an inviting space that will support innovative thinking. The smart thinking has already been done – the University selected steel.

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