Materials 2017 was held over two days earlier this month at the ILEC Centre, London. A broad range of speakers was pulled together to discuss the latest innovations and technology in a very wide range of materials, including steel. The so-called Steel Panel comprised Jonathan Clemens (Tata Steel), John Rushton (Peter Brett, and currently a Non-Executive Director of SCI), and Graham Couchman (SCI). John’s presentation focused on current steel building design and construction practice, indicating that they are seeing more projects coming through concerned with adapting buildings for a range of use, using hybrid combinations of materials (steel with timber and steel with concrete), and intensive developments at transport and retail sites where mixed use is one of a number of constraints that make design more challenging.
Jonathan presented facts and figures that showed the relevance of steel to the construction sector, indeed noting that more strip steel is used in construction than in the more ‘glamorous’ automotive sector. His presentation resonated with that of John in identifying steel as a material that integrates well with others, and can be essential to facilitate the use of other materials. He also emphasised that steel has been a key construction material for over 100 years.
Graham’s brief summary of trends he perceives, and current activities at SCI, concentrated on moves towards higher strength material, and research and development of systems that are readily demountable so that components can be reused. These complement two benefits of steel that are already widely exploited, namely the ability to achieve long spans (and therefore create flexible space), and the ability to be extensively recycled, to make steel a very interesting material to meet future construction demands. These characteristics have of course already enabled steel to dominate certain significant market sectors.