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 →

President’s Column (November 2018)

Although we had all hoped that October would bring some much-needed clarity to the Brexit process, this has not been the case.  Because of this, the structural steelwork sector has asked itself what the risks of a no-deal Brexit are to the UK’s structural steelwork supply.

The answer to this question is that the risk of a no-deal Brexit to the supply of structural steelwork in the UK is low.

So how do we know?  BCSA and its member companies undertook a risk analysis that looked at the supply of materials and products, the structure of the workforce, stocking trends and tariffs under WTO rules. Continue Reading →

President’s Column (October 2018)

I sometimes wonder whether main contractors and clients really understand how the structural steelwork sector works or the structures and processes we have in place to ensure sufficient quantities of high quality structural steelwork fabricated in the UK make their way onto the market.

The construction industry’s response to issues in the UK steelmaking sector a few years ago, the possibility of a no deal Brexit, and the US trade wars make me think not.  Or maybe the media just likes to spread bad news.

Either way, those of us involved directly with the structural steelwork supply chain know that there is an adequate supply of high quality steel onto the UK market – both now and into the future. Continue Reading →

President’ Column (September 2018)

While BCSA steelwork contractors are required to have a fabrication facility in the UK or Ireland that meets stringent quality standards and undergo a competence assessment relating to the company’s work facilities, track record and technical and management experience, there are still some companies out there without the skills, experience and financial standing to be taking on structural steelwork projects.

Who are these companies? On paper, they might look like legitimate steelwork fabricators. Some have ISO 9001, CE Marking certification and have undergone well-known prequalification assessments. But incredibly, they don’t have a fabrication facility at all. Continue Reading →