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Structural steel remains the material of choice for construction and looks set for further increases in demand over the coming year following growth of 8% in 2015, BCSA President Wendy Coney told the Association’s National Dinner.

Ms Coney said despite the ‘steel in crisis’ headlines that at times dominated the media and could have undermined confidence in steel, supply of structural steel was unaffected by problems that beset manufacturers in the face of overproduction of steel in China.

She said: “Steelwork contractor members continued to source their steel from high quality domestic and imported sources, supported by the UK’s domestic steel producer and a strong distribution and stockholding sector. This enabled them to meet demand for a full range of projects and clients.”

The UK’s structural steel industry remained the world’s leader and further growth in demand was expected in 2016.

Ms Coney said the steel sector has adapted easily to the introduction of new steel procurement guidelines from the government and has been working with government to ensure that the changes support the domestic supply of rolled steel, while at the same time ensuring the new rules do not have unintended consequences along the supply chain.

Also during the year, the structural steelwork supply chain played a key role in support of the introduction of Building Information Modelling (BIM), which is now mandatory for government construction projects. The sector’s long term familiarity with 3D modelling helped a smooth transition to the new BIM regime, as did the training programmes run by BCSA. The BCSA launched a BIM Charter in April that enables steelwork contractors to demonstrate compliance with the government’s BIM requirements.

Ms Coney made a presentation to the well known and highly regarded structural engineer Roger Pope, who has been a specialist technical consultant to the BCSA and Tata Steel for many years, making him a Fellow of the BCSA. Roger started his career in 1964 with an industrial scholarship to attend Oxford University from the Steel Company of Wales, later part of British Steel Corporation.

Roger has chaired a number of UK and European standards committees and still convenes the European committee responsible for the “Execution of Steel Structures’. He was instrumental in developing the National Structural Steelwork Specification and the Register of Qualified Steelwork Contractors Scheme for Bridgeworks, and is still active as a bridges assessor for the BCSA.

Guest Speaker Alan Crossman, President of the Institution of Structural Engineers (IStructE), said the traditional silos in the construction industry were breaking down, and young people entering the structural engineering profession had broader educations and more breadth of vision than his generation.

There was a balance to be found however between breadth of knowledge and its depth. Broader degrees were an attractive notion but did they leave enough time for the necessary depth of knowledge to develop? An increased focus on continuing professional development for structural engineers, working more closely with universities and initiatives like new online education products from the IStructE would address some of the issues, he said.

Mr Crossman said there were opportunities to increase efficiency and reduce costs in the construction supply chain through early collaboration, and said that where collaboration occurred between the contractor, project engineer and steelwork contractor, the expectations of the client could be better met