Steel is undoubtedly the backbone of our built environment. Steel is used in almost every sector of our industry, including energy, construction and housing (the largest consumer of steel), automotive and transportation, infrastructure and machinery – to name but a few. Seeing as the steel industry employs over 2 million people worldwide and can be seen everywhere around us, buildingspecifier thought it would be a good idea to delve a little deeper into the world of steel and shed light on a material that is so integral to our lives. We spoke to metal roofing experts, Country Towne who kindly put this infographic together, which highlights a few interesting facts about their favourite substance. Enjoy!

Infographic courtesy of Metal Roofing experts Country Towne.

Image: Mike Mearns, Commercial Director at Mechanical & Electrical Fixings Ltd

Mechanical Electrical Fixings (MEF) has announced the opening of its 15,000sq ft. distribution centre in Santry, Dublin to meet increasing demand for Metsec products in Republic of Ireland.

Established thirty years ago, the Edinburgh-based wholesaler MEF has worked with Metsec for the past decade and is one of the largest stock-holders of Metsec cable management products in the UK.
Earlier this year, MEF acquired a Belfast base to serve the market in Northern Ireland, but with increasing demand for Metsec’s products, decided to open a further distribution centre in Eire.


Richard Allen, general manager at Metsec, says: “We have been receiving enquiries from Ireland for quite some time and were struggling to meet demand. Shipping products over from mainland UK was proving time consuming and costly, so we weren’t as competitive as we could be.

“Thanks to MEF’s extensive distribution centre in Dublin, coupled with the existing Belfast site, we can now get our products to customers more quickly and it makes our products attractive to the Irish market.”

Mike Mearns, commercial director at MEF, says: “The Republic of Ireland is going through a boom time with the Irish government attracting major technology investment and we’ve seen a large number of big players in the data centre industry recently building or expanding facilities in Ireland.

“These data centres require a substantial amount of cable management products, including trunking, trays and both pre- and post-galvanised ladders. The new distribution centre means we can provide the Metsec products to these customers quickly and at a very competitive price.

“We at MEF are very excited about this new venture, stocking further Metsec cable management products in Ireland to meet the contractors’ requirements,” Mearns concluded.

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Tata Steel mechanical engineer Scott Harwood has singlehandedly built an entire steel hot mill model using Lego blocks. The full-functioning model rolls cardboard instead of steel but operates in exactly the same way as a full scale mill.

Check out the amazing model in the video below:

Powdertech (Corby) Ltd has demonstrated its expertise in metal finishing on both steel and aluminium in the exciting Dickens Yard development, Ealing, West London. As specialists in architectural metal finishing, Powdertech coated all of the steel balconies and balustrade on the site, and many sections of aluminium facade.

Dickens Yard has been developed on the site of a former council car park in the centre of Ealing. It is termed a ‘high density, mixed use’ development, with shops, cafes, restaurants, health and leisure facilities at street level. Sitting directly above these are over six hundred residential apartments with landscaped courtyards, terraces and balconies.

Powdertech powder coated over 70 galvanised steel balcony bases and 500 metres of aluminium glass channel in Axalta RAL7039 matt grey polyester powder, providing corrosion protection and colour for twenty five years. “The large balcony bases up to 6m by 1.5m, and weighing in excess of 800kg took some handling,” said Richard Besant, Powdertech Sales Director, “Our plant has the capacity to accommodate the size, the weight and the quantity of these units.” In addition, posts for over 500 metres steel balustrade were coated in Valspar RAL7012 matt grey.

Ealing is identified as one of London’s major metropolitan centres in the London Plan and Dickens Yard reflects that vision. “This is a prestigious development with a requirement to look smart over many years,” said Richard Besant. “The powder coated finish on the prominent metal work will help to achieve that with minimal maintenance.”

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RenewableUK and Scottish Renewables are today welcoming the announcement by Liberty House Group that it has bought a British plant to make wind turbine towers using local steel.

The plant’s equipment will be used in a new British manufacturing centre to supply the country’s leading offshore wind market and in the emerging tidal lagoon power industry.

The news is the latest in Liberty House’s ‘Green Steel’ initiative. Recently, it announced it will restart production at two Scottish steel plants, Dalzell and Clydebridge, to make onshore and offshore wind turbine towers.

RenewableUK’s Chief Executive, Hugh McNeal said “This is great news and shows how the renewable industry can provide a market for steel produced in Britain. The growth of renewables in the UK is a huge opportunity for British businesses, as high demand for quality steel has increased.”

Jenny Hogan, Director of Policy at Scottish Renewables added “Renewable energy already supports 21,000 Scottish jobs, and it’s good news that a number of those employed at steel-works in Motherwell and Cambuslang could soon be joining the industry’s supply chain.”

Angela Eagle MP, Shadow First Secretary of State and Shadow Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, commenting on the warnings from UK Steel about the impact of a leave vote on the industry, said “UK steel is a vital foundation industry. But with the industry in crisis and teetering on the brink, leaving the EU could push it over the edge.”

“The EU is a crucial market for UK steel, accounting for over half of our exports. And by working together across the EU, we are better able to stand up to the illegal dumping of Chinese steel.

“The leave camp have cynically used the steel crisis to further their aims. But the industry is united. Both the employers and the steel trade unions all say that staying in the EU is essential for the future of this foundation industry.”

This is a stark contrast to the counter argument made by UKIP leader Nigel Farage who has earlier stated “If we vote to Remain on June 23 it is the end of the steel industry in this country. Simple as that.” He suggested that only by voting leave can UK steel truly have a “fighting chance” of survival.

The Prime Minister David Cameron has also expressed the opinion that it is vital that EU markets remain open to British steel-makers, saying “Around 50 per cent of British steel production goes into the EU. So we need to be in there working with others to stop the unfair dumping of steel into Europe by other countries and we’ve done that.

“But we need to be in there making sure the markets are open.

“If we were on the outside we might well find that is was our steel that was having those tariffs and those taxes put upon it.”

One thing that both sides of the debate are in agreement on is that there are “no guarantees of success” in saving the UK steel industry long term because of “the problems the steel industry faces worldwide.”

How do you think the referendum will affect UK steel? Let us know in the comments below!

Tata Steel UK have this week announced the completion of the sale of its Long Products Europe business to Greybull Capital LLP, securing 4,400 UK jobs and breathing new life into the floundering British industry.

During the last twelve months, the Long Products Europe business has implemented a transformation plan including a portfolio restructuring of assets, underpinned by committed support from employees and their trade unions. This has focused the business on higher-value markets supported by a more competitive cost base.

Mr Bimlendra Jha, Executive Chairman of the Long Products Europe business and CEO of Tata Steel UK said: “As a responsible seller, Tata Steel is delighted to have secured a buyer for this business and we hope that under Greybull Capital ownership, the business will continue the momentum of the improvement program that has been initiated in the last 12 months.

“Employees and trade unions have worked closely with the Long Products Europe management team to improve the business’s prospects, putting it in a more competitive position than it has been for many years. It is through their dedication and hard work that we are in this position today in spite of continued challenges in the market.”

From today the Long Products Europe business, which in the UK includes the Scunthorpe steelworks, two mills in Teesside, an engineering workshop in Workington, a design consultancy in York, and associated distribution facilities, as well as a rail mill in northern France, will trade under the name of British Steel. All together the business employs 4,800 people – 4,400 in the UK and 400 in France.

News of this deal completion will undoubtedly please workers at Tata. British Steel’s commercial director, Peter Hogg, said in the Guardian that jobs at the firm were now secure. “We have no plans to make any job reductions. The future of the business is based on that strong turnaround plan.”

Technical Editor Bruce Meechan visits Britain’s traditional ‘metal-bashing’ heartland to discover how one company is giving steel framing a very modern ring.

Having paid a brief visit to Metsec’s stand at the Offsite exhibition prior to Christmas, I accepted an invitation from the company’s Marketing and Business Development Director to visit the premises at Oldbury in the Midlands: to find out more about its divisions which embrace dry-lining systems and cable management systems as well as high performance purlins and light gauge steel framing for all types of building structure.

Despite the company’s strong performance over recent years – defying the downturn in construction after the financial crisis – Richard Allen still sees two rather illogical barriers to even better growth figures, which he is trying to address.

The first came to light during a series of focus group meetings involving industry professionals. These revealed that the name ‘Metsec’ is commonly used in construction as a verb or generic term – including by some people who didn’t know the manufacturer actually existed.

The second, though, could be easier to understand, given the construction trade’s notorious reluctance to adopt new practices: even when there are many good reasons for doing so. Richard reflected: “Despite the potential for steel framing to save them time, cost and hassle, some people still perceive there is a risk to using a non-standard method of construction. Their reluctance to adopt modern methods of working – normally by reverting to in-situ concrete – means they are missing out on the cost and programme savings which could be afforded to them. The lightness of the Metframe system can allow you to employ shallower foundations as well as offering great acoustic, thermal and fire performance. And overall you can just build that much faster than with a reinforced concrete frame.”

So how does the Metsec offering deliver these many benefits? “When you look at the products that we sell,” Richard explained, “in essence there is nothing that complicated about them. Our Metframe system for instance features cold-roll formed C and U-sections; the complexity comes in understanding how they work together to create a 12-storey structure.

“It is very much in our design capabilities that we add value for our customers, and why Metsec has come to be regarded as a thought leader within the sector. We have some very clever engineers using the latest design software: including TEKLA and Revit.”

Responding to the industry’s bilateral use of UK and European standards, Metsec’s software allows projects to be designed in line with either the British Standard or Eurocode. Its range is also CE marked to Level 4.

He continued: “When it comes to our purlins systems we aim to make the structural engineer’s life easier, offering them free software for designing the different systems. For instance inputting the building’s location will automatically take account of typical snow load and wind loading for the area. Then given the building’s dimensions it will calculate the most efficient purlin design, using the optimum amount of steel.

“Then for the fabricators, they want something which is easy to erect; where the logistics are in line with the build programme. Because we operate on a very short lead time, we can adjust delivery dates to match any problems they might have with the weather or variations from the client.

“It is design expertise which enables us to carry out all of our contracts in such a way that we can create cost savings for our customers. Take for example Smithfield in Manchester – our ability to map out the full elevations to the building for the client, and seeking ways to value engineer the design meant we were able to remove a considerable amount of hot rolled steel – offering Galliford Try real cost savings. Elsewhere our lightweight steel framing systems have had a lot of success using our infill walling system with student accommodation as well as a number of social housing projects: and we are keen to do more.”

Across all of its different divisions, Metsec’s interaction with consultants and clients is led by its specification sales teams, all of which – with the exception of dry-lining – are split up regionally.

A package of support worth hundreds of millions of pounds will be made available to potential buyers of Tata Steel UK. What does this mean for the UK steel industry?

According to the website, the support will include the following:

  • hundreds of millions of pounds worth of financial support on commercial terms will be made available
  • additional grant funding support also on offer
  • comes on top of wider action already being taken by the UK and Welsh governments to support the steel industry
  • A package of support worth hundreds of millions of pounds will be made available on commercial terms to potential buyers of Tata Steel UK, the UK and Welsh governments have confirmed

The announcement follows a second meeting between Business Secretary Sajid Javid and Tata Global Chairman Cyrus Mistry last week in Mumbai where progress on the sales process was discussed.

The UK government has been clear that since Tata announced its intention to divest its UK operations, it is ready to support a credible private buyer of Tata Steel UK, offering financing on commercial terms to support the ongoing operations and deliver long-term investment in the future of the business.

The financial support package will be tailored to the purchaser’s strategy and financing needs. However, it is expected that all, or the large majority, will be through the provision of debt financing. Other options include:

  • providing hybrid (convertible debt) or alternative forms of financing
  • supporting a purchaser’s financing by taking a minority equity stake (up to 25%) acting in support of the purchaser; however, government will not acquire a material element of control over the business

The UK government say that they are actively working with Tata Steel and the British Steel Pension Scheme’s Trustees to find a solution that will help minimise its impact on a potential purchaser, and potentially separate it from the business.

Business Secretary Sajid Javid said “This government is committed to supporting the steel industry to secure a long-term viable future and we are working closely with Tata Steel UK on its process to find a credible buyer. The detail of our commercial funding offer is clear evidence of the extent of that commitment.”

“Ministers have visited Tata Steel sites across the country and the pride and dedication of the highly-skilled men and women working there is obvious to see. We have already delivered on energy compensation, on tackling unfair trading practices and on procurement of British steel, and we will keep on going further to support this vital industry.”

Read more: Sir David Attenborough opens namesake building… by abseiling down living wall in the atrium!

First Minister of Wales Carwyn Jones added “We’re committed to supporting any credible bid to secure steel making in Wales. We have worked with the UK government to put in place this significant package of support and we believe that this will help secure a successful sale of Tata Steel’s operations in Wales and the rest of the UK.”

Last week’s announcement, made in partnership with the Welsh government, follows the start of a formal sales process announced by Tata Steel last week. In addition to the support package, the UK and Welsh governments will also be willing to consider additional grant funding support, for example to support the development of power plant infrastructure, energy efficiency and/or environmental protection measures, R&D and training.

The European Investment Bank has also stated that it recognises the diverse challenges facing European steel companies and stands ready to consider possible financing for new investment in the UK steel industry on the basis of specific proposals.

How Europe affects UK steel

Approximately 18,000 people are employed within the UK steel sector. Analysts suggest that if current trends hold up, around one in four of these jobs could be at risk over coming years.

However, whilst cries have been heard for the government to simply bail out struggling companies within the sector to reduce this risk, it isn’t as simple as that. EU rules tightly restrict just how much support governments can give to certain industries. This includes the steel industry, with EU member states not able to use public funds to rescue struggling steel manufacturers.

However, despite these preventions being in place, EU countries are permitted to increase the global competitiveness of their own steel firms, through R&D funding and help paying high energy bills.

Do you think the government’s announcement will help the UK steel industry? Let us know in the comments below!

Glastonbury Festival organisers have announced that they are launching a sustainable, recycled stainless steel pint cup for use on a major scale at this year’s event.

The website states that over 200,000 cups will be in circulation in ten of the main bars onsite, with festival goers paying a £5 deposit when they buy their first pint.

Green Initiatives and Sustainability Coordinator, Lucy Smith says “Everybody said we couldn’t do it with something on the scale of Glastonbury and it has been a major fight to get this scheme off the ground, dealing with everything from weights and measures to crushability tests.


“But for us, it’s part of the reusable revolution. It’s very similar to paying 5p for a carrier bag. We think people will take to it. The pints are made by APS in Birmingham, and it was a significant part of the project to have them made with British stainless steel.”

Waste is always a big issue for music festivals, and a solution to the sheer amount of spent beer cups has been long sought after. These stainless pint cups are the truly a first of their kind and are made of food grade 80 per cent recycled British stainless steel. In order to ensure hygiene, when music-lovers get their next round in, they can simply swap their used cup for a fresh one.


Lucy continues: “Founder of the festival, Michael Eavis wanted to support the British steel industry, and what we got was much higher, more consistent quality. The difference is clear in the quality of the steel. APS made the cups on a press previously used to make Land Rover parts.”

“I’m told the cup initiative is a bit of a revolution. But for me, the single most important thing was being able to source British stainless steel for the cups from the place where it was invented – Sheffield, and then to take it on to the home of manufacture – Birmingham.” – Michael Eavis

“Week after week, there’s a story in the national press about jobs in the UK steel industry being put at risk. There’s seemingly no end to the negative slide of this critical industry, and if the jobs, skills and infrastructure are lost they won’t be replaced.”

“We’ve worked on this project over the last three years, which will hopefully encourage other UK businesses to think about how they can support our steel industry during these very challenging times.”