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Tough judging makes for special Awards

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The Structural Steel Design Awards has been showing the world the best of UK constructional steelwork for 55 years now, making the Awards one of the longest running in the construction industry. This year’s winners and shortlisted projects are celebrated in this issue of NSC, and will receive wider publicity in key industry magazines.

The projects speak for themselves really, and the construction teams associated with all of them can feel justifiably proud of having produced work of this quality. Steelwork contractors are involved in this sort of quality every day of course, but even those that score fully on quality and the other features of constructional steelwork like speed of construction, flexibility, cost-effectiveness and demonstrably high sustainability credentials, can fall just short of making the SSDA shortlist – shortlisted projects have to have that special something extra that makes them stand out from the crowd and make it as far as being an SSDA National Finalist.

One special thing about the SSDA itself is its judging process. As Chairman of the Judges Roger Plank explains in this issue’s coverage of the Awards, having the judges visit all of the shortlisted projects is a special feature. Desk top assessments, which is all many awards base decisions on, are only used to filter entries to the SSDA, after which all projects are invited to host a visit from judges.

As he explains, as well as all of the quality factors, the judges are looking for demonstrations from construction teams that a real commitment has been made to reducing lifetime carbon use. The projects gaining Awards, Commendations, Merits, in fact all of the National Finalists, have impressed the judges that they are making whatever contribution to achieving net zero carbon is currently possible.

That commitment is seen across an extremely diverse range of Awards this year. Battersea Power Station for example has been a widely loved London landmark for many years and steel has helped its transformation into a mixed-use destination that will impress for generations to come. A transformation of the obsolete concrete HYLO building, also in London, was made possible only with the use of structural steel.

Excellent sustainability credentials were particularly praised at One Centenary Way in Birmingham, creating an elegant, high-quality office building which has helped transform the area. Two outstanding bridges completed the Awards list. Copr Bay Bridge provides a dramatic new gateway to Swansea, using an innovative stressed skin design. Stockingfield Bridge in Glasgow provides new links between disconnected communities and much needed pedestrian and cycle routes across a canal and a road.

As well as high sustainability commitment, good design and quality construction, successful projects seem to benefit from close collaboration among construction teams, which the judges found throughout the shortlisted projects. Of the 21 shortlisted projects another six were given Commendations, and three achieved Merits, and as you can see in this issue of NSC, they all look like they could have justified Awards.

The judges admit that they have a hard task each year when comparing notes based on their site visits and talks with construction teams in deciding which to make the ‘winners’. There aren’t any ‘losers’ but consensus is eventually reached. It is an arduous process, but that is what makes the SSDA the highly regarded recognition of excellence that it has been for so long.

Nick Barrett

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Click on the cover to view this month's issue as a digimag.