Office and industrial shed downturn set to hit steel demand

Fewer office and industrial warehouse projects in the next two years will dampen demand for structural steel, according to the British Constructional Steelwork Association (BCSA).

A survey of 750 built environmental professionals, commissioned by the BCSA and released last Friday, predicts structural steelwork consumption in the UK to fall from 893,000 in 2023 to 873,000 tonnes in 2026.

It forecast that a decline in demand for steel in industrial sheds and offices will drive the decrease during 2024 and 2025.

Consumption of structural steelwork in industrial buildings increased by 2.2 per cent to 450,000 tonnes but is forecast to fall in 2024. Major gigafactory projects are expected to increase demand for steel in 2025 and 2026.

Office buildings used 107,000 tonnes of steel, 9.1 per cent more than in 2022. However, new order figures declined over the course of the year.

Office developments are expected to consume 14 per cent less steel in 2024 before the market stabilises in 2025 and 2026.

Structural steel captured 94.4 per cent of the framing market for office buildings last year, a total floor area of 11.5 million square metres.

However, steel took a much lower share (48.6 per cent) for framing materials across all buildings.

Despite the total market for structural frames decreasing by 8.8 per cent in 2023, steelwork consumption only decreased by 1 per cent.

BCSA chief executive David Moore said: “The survey shows that steel remains the preferred choice of the UK construction market across all the building types analysed.

“The cost-effectiveness of steel, its adaptability, speed of construction and contribution to the circular economy through reuse and recycling are all factors that continue to be valued by developers, contractors, designers and building users alike.”

According to Moore, the end of post-pandemic recovery and economic uncertainty caused by rising energy costs and interest rates limited the growth of structural steelwork in 2023.

He predicted that the popularity of online retail and post-pandemic return to office will eventually stabilise demand for industrial sheds and office buildings.

Moore also suggested that investment in hospitals, schools and low carbon energy production would boost demand for steel.

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