President’s Column (July/August 2018)

BCSA members came together in June for the Association’s Annual General Meeting, National Meeting, and its National Dinner. My President’s address at the dinner focused on commercial and contractual matters, just as readers of this column might expect.

But as well as the opportunity to hear about the work of our Association, discuss current issues, and get together to celebrate our industry, these events gave me the opportunity to reflect on the advantages of being a BCSA member and the myriad of benefits that using a BCSA member provides to clients and main contractors.

Of course, BCSA members are well aware of the benefits of membership, including exclusive access to expert advice, knowledge and programmes that improve our services to clients, reduce commercial risk, and make the workplace safer for everyone. Continue Reading →

President’s Column (June 2018)

I was interested to read a recent opinion piece in the construction press that painted the construction sector as an industry divided on the issue of retentions. A good read, but it completely missed the big picture which is that the construction sector is unanimous that retentions should be abolished. As usual, it’s in the fine print of implementation where there is some disagreement.

The danger with our lack of agreement on implementation is that it will allow the government to sit on its hands and take the ‘do nothing’ path once again. This can’t happen in a post-Carillion world where hundreds of sub-contractors so recently lost retentions to the failed Tier 1 contractor. Continue Reading →

President’s Column (May 2018)

I’ve learnt over the year that my view of the world isn’t shared by everyone else. And when we think about design, that is certainly the case.

From an architect’s perspective, design can be seen as a bridge – one between a client’s vision and the actual form of the structure. When I have met with architects or heard them speak, they have often referred to design as both an art and a science. Then when the design is passed onto the engineer, mathematics, science and modelling dominate, and practical design issues such as buildability, cost and safety come to the fore.

Like engineers, steelwork contractors use modelling to ensure the safety, buildability and cost-effectiveness of the steel structure. But for us, design provides much more than this. Continue Reading →

President’s Column (April 2018)

The UK economy is bumping along, we have read about construction material costs rising across the board, tightening labour availability, and the latest Construction PMI shows subdued growth conditions.

So, what does 2018 and beyond hold for the structural steelwork sector?

Given these general conditions, the outlook is solid – as is the sector itself. In 2017 structural steelwork consumption in the sector was 894,000 tonnes. We did see an easing in consumption last year, but 2018, 2019 and 2020 are forecast for an increase of 1.4%, 2.5% and 2.2% respectively giving total structural steelwork consumption of 950,000 tonnes by 2020. Continue Reading →

President’s Column (March 2018)

I’m hearing a lot in the press about new methods of construction, with terms like ‘offsite construction’ and ‘design for manufacture’ coming up more and more.

However, many people forget that steel framing is the original offsite framing material and is already delivering a huge range of advantages to clients.

Fabrication of individual steel pieces takes place offsite under controlled, highly regulated and safe factory conditions, where the use of digital design and leading-edge fabrication systems deliver precision-engineered components with minimum waste. Continue Reading →

President’s Column (February 2018)

The construction sector, government and the wider UK population are reeling following Carillion’s liquidation in January. But at the same time, nobody in the sector is that surprised that a large main contractor has gone under.

Government is working with trade associations like BCSA to make sure subcontractors are informed, and to determine the immediate next steps as this particular mess is mopped up. Clients are working with the liquidator to get construction jobs started again and subcontractors, including steelwork contractors, are ready to make sure that the cranes on building sites across the country are working once more.

The calls for reform in the construction sector are welcome, and I’ve written about these issues before. The solutions include rigorous enforcement of payment terms, getting rid of supply chain financing that can leave subcontractors out on a limb, and dealing with retentions once and for all. Continue Reading →