‘Build Back Better’ – reworking and adapting to meet current demands

Buildings which can be quickly and cost-effectively repurposed will be central to our collective recovery from this year’s challenges.

“Build Back Better” – this rallying call from the government is an indicator of the country’s confidence in construction.

As we all regroup and look at how to recover from 2020, adaptability will be key. The construction sector’s ability to adapt buildings and reshape spaces that meet communities’ and businesses’ new requirements will play an important part.

With working from home taking people out of city centre office blocks and e-commerce boosting demand for out-of-town distribution centres, many property-owners and businesses are reassessing their portfolios. Flexible structures will make the recovery that bit easier. By which we mean steel structures – buildings with the structural integrity and adaptability to be reworked to meet changing needs from clients, communities and consumers.

Steel structures are ideal for budget-friendly building work. Compared to their construction counterpart concrete, they require less time and fewer resources to adapt while creating virtually no waste. Because steel is so sustainable, able to be repurposed and reused without losing any of its core properties or strength, any pre-existing steel structure can be reconfigured, adapted or added to with minimal disruption. This is allowing property developers in inner cities to convert empty spaces into much-needed housing while commercial businesses across the country are able to extend or adapt their warehouse and distribution facilities to meet changes or increases in demand from consumers.

Designers, developers, engineers and end clients are often well aware of the advantages and adaptability of working with steel for a new project, but how much its benefits extend through the whole-life of a building should not be underestimated.

For designers and architects in the beginning stages of a new build, steel allows for ambitious designs, both internal and external – its strength and versatility allowing for modern, open and attractive spaces.

In the long-run, the cellular beams and long-span steel sections that initially create architecturally attractive features are then able to be reconfigured; helping to future proof a building should it need to be modified at a later date.

For engineers and project managers, the ability to prefabricate steel parts off-site allows for a number of trades to work on a site either earlier on in a project or in tandem with one another, reducing overall time needed to complete a build.

The speeds and time benefits that steel structures offer also extend beyond the first build period. As buildings are now needing to be quickly repurposed to bring them back into use – bringing financial benefits for owners, social benefits for communities and practical benefits for businesses – the speed at which modifications can be made is again a benefit.

Within a steel-framed building it is easy to add in new internal walls, build in additional or improved temperature controls or to create new external doors or windows. Similarly, it is as simple to strip out existing fittings and reimagine spaces, including adding new sections.

For these reasons, for any professional in the construction or property sector, steel’s benefit will undoubtedly be being considered in the conversations around how we can ‘build back better’.

Adapting buildings or property portfolios will play a central part in many businesses’ abilities to survive this period of uncertainty. Those with both flexible thinking and flexible structures will be at an advantage.

Steel is adaptable at all stages of a building’s life, making it a good asset now many business’s requirements or remits are changing.

Working with a contractor who is equally as flexible, dependable and quality assured will also be key. See case studies of projects where we have delivered variation changes even after construction is “complete” as well as worked with existing frames to up-cycle existing buildings.

View from D1/D2 Wood Wharf overlooking London skyline

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