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 →

President’s Column (January 2018)

While the standard forms of construction contract – NEC and JCT – aren’t perfect, in my opinion they provide a pretty good balance for both main contractors and sub-contractors. And until the adversarial contracting model changes to something much more collaborative, they allow both parties to share project risk.

These contracts are also what’s been agreed by the construction sector as a whole. Together, representatives from all parts of the supply chain decide what stays, what goes and what needs to be added.

So it’s always galling to see clauses that have absolutely nothing to do with the project specification or risks specific to that job added to a sub-contract. These additions aren’t minor either. They can run on to hundreds of additional clauses, scattered throughout the contract, and can have significant consequences for a sub-contractor. Continue Reading →

Statement from The British Constructional Steelwork Association

The British Constructional Steelwork Association (BCSA) continues to assure the construction sector that the ongoing issues around UK steelmaking will not affect the structural steelwork sector’s delivery of current and future projects.

BCSA says that procuring constructional steelwork from a UK or Irish steelwork contractor is the best way to support UK steelmaking:

– UK and Irish steelwork contractors understand the government’s new procurement requirements for steel, and provide the clearest route for compliance

– Using a UK or Irish steelwork contractor adds additional value to the UK economy through the whole supply chain including the fabrication of the steelwork, and the supply of other products and services such as secondary steelwork, metal decking, protective coatings and cladding

– Overseas steelwork contractors are very unlikely to procure UK-made steel because of the additional time and cost

The UK and Ireland have an efficient steel distribution sector that services the structural steelwork sector well with a balance of UK and high quality imported steels.  UK and Irish steel distributors hold high levels of stock and a wide range of products for all construction and infrastructure end-uses. Continue Reading →