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Concrete gets competitive as steel prices rocket

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THE CONCRETE industry has this week seized on soaring steel prices triggered by the Chinese construction boom to re-ignite the long-term battle for dominance in the commercial building market.

Since the 1980s concrete has conceded around two thirds of multi-storey construction to steel.

But with cement prices and demand relatively stable, concrete producers see the recent steel price explosion as an opportunity to claw back market share.

Concrete lobby group the Concrete Centre confirmed that it is to commission consultants Arup and Davis Langdon & Everest to compare the costs of typical multi-storey structural frames executed in both steel and concrete.

The move follows an announcement last month from the British Constructional Steelwork Association (BCSA) that it was updating a similar exercise carried out in 1993, and claims on its website that steel still remains the cheapest frame option despite recent price hikes.

BCSA says UK structural steel section prices will have soared 50% by the end of the year, but that would only translate into a 2% increase in total project costs.

The Concrete Centre predicts a similar rise. 'Our information is that sections are already up 40%', said head of cost consulting Francis Ryder.

'Rebar is up even more, but of course you use much less of it' The Concrete Centre's exercise also updates an existing document, in this case produced by the then Reinforced Concrete Council (RCC) in 1992.

Original RCC and BCSA analyses came down in favour of concrete and steel respectively.

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