Presidents Column (April 2019)

Most of us already know that the government wants construction and infrastructure projects to incorporate greater levels of offsite manufacturing. But more recently, government has said that it also wants to take a more standardised approach to design, including componentisation. They refer to this as a platforms approach.

With the majority of the value add for structural steel already occurring offsite – in some cases up to 90% the structural steelwork sector is well placed to be an early adopter of these new approaches.

Key to the success of this approach will be the ability to lock down the complete design. The current construction delivery model does not allow the design to be fixed and drives late changes to design driven by individual sub-contractors as they are engaged. This lack of design certainty is the biggest issue facing steelwork contractors today and one of the largest drivers of cost. BCSA believes late and incomplete design, design errors, and ongoing design changes could currently add up to 15% – 20% in cost to a construction project. Continue Reading →

President’s Column (March 2019)

With the 2019 Spring Statement due on 13 March, and the UK currently scheduled to exit the EU at the end of March, all eyes are on the UK economy this month. But what does this actually mean for the structural steelwork sector?
Every year, Construction Markets undertakes what is believed to be the largest survey of its kind, surveying specifiers and analysing the responses against government data in order to calculate the current and future consumption of structural steelwork in the UK, and the market share of the key framing materials.

The most recent data has just been released, including forecasts to 2021, and as most of us would have expected, in 2018 the consumption of structural steelwork in the UK remained fairly flat at 895,000 tonnes. Overall, Construction Markets is forecasting more of the same in 2019 (up 0.5%) and then stronger growth overall in 2020 (up 2.3%) before a levelling off again in 2021. By 2021, the UK’s consumption of structural steelwork should have reached 920,000 tonnes.
But the interesting reading really comes when we delve into the details of some key sectors.

Continue Reading →

President’s Column (February 2019)

Main contractors often push the limits when drafting construction contracts for subcontract work, even though we have perfectly good standard form contracts in the form of NEC and JCT. I have seen pages and pages of ‘z clauses’ inserted into NEC contracts, and so many changes to JCT contracts that they should really be renamed. Standard clauses designed to protect subcontractors, though, simply vanish into thin air.

On the other side of the table, for some subcontractors, navigating the contractual landscape can be time-consuming and difficult, especially when ‘standard’ no longer really means ‘standard’ and those all-important standard clauses designed to provide protection and a level playing field are just deleted time and time again. Continue Reading →

President’s Column (January 2019)

I’ve written before about the benefits that accrue to clients, main contractors and specifiers from using a BCSA member for their structural steelwork.  This is due to BCSA’s membership assessments which cover competence, capability and recommended contract size, but also because BCSA members are always up to date with the latest regulatory requirements and best practise, and have member-only access to a wide range of education and training.

Structural engineers and architects have their own professional bodies to support their education and professional development, but many of them also benefit from wide-ranging role that BCSA and its sister organisation Steel for Life play in keeping them knowledgeable about structural steelwork. Continue Reading →

Structural Steelwork Trade and Supply

Recent trade actions have had no effect on the availability or supply of structural steelwork to the UK construction sector, nor on UK raw steel prices.

International trade has shot into the headlines recently with Brexit negotiations at a critical stage and the US/China in a ‘trade war’.  The problem is that many of the articles on what this might mean for the steel sector conflate the issues and some have come to erroneous conclusions.  This article sets out the facts clearly for structural steelwork.

Materials Cost Inflation:  There is a broad range of factors that drive raw steel prices including exchange rates, raw material inputs including iron ore, coking coal and scrap, as well as electricity pricing.  Combined with overall supply and demand, no one factor is dominant.  It is also important to remember that for a typical building, the cost of the raw steel only represents 4% of the total building cost. Continue Reading →