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Steel promotion organisations increase steel's share of the construction market

Independent steel promotion organisations (IPOs) have been created in many European countries. Their role is to emphasise the advantages of steel and to promote its use, particularly in the construction sector. But how do these organisations achieve their aims and how can ArcelorMittal customers take advantage of their services?

The activities each IPO undertakes vary from country to country. They range from an exchange of know-how between members to the establishment of specific technical committees to advocate for steel’s inclusion in new national building regulations and standards. Regular IPO activities include the publication of brochures and technical studies, the organisation of seminars and site visits, and running educational programmes for students in higher education. Segmentspecific programmes are also offered, covering issues such as corrosion, design, fire and seismic performance, sustainability, and dedicated steel applications such as bridges, roofing and cladding.

Targeting all parts of the construction sector

Let’s zoom in on a few of the many IPOs. Infosteel, the steel IPO which covers Belgium and Luxembourg, targets all parties who are active in the decision making and implementation phases of steel construction projects. “That starts with investors and architects, and includes engineers, steel fabricators, steel distributors, and sub contractors,” says Philippe Coigné, General Manager of Infosteel.

Most IPOs rely on the support of members to fund most of their activities. Some, such as the Dutch steel IPO Bouwen met Staal (Building with Steel), supplement their resources through extensive publishing activities and providing training. “We develop our own publications on subjects ranging from designing with steel to fire engineering,” explains Frank Maatje, Director of the IPO. “Lecturers can choose different parts from our publications to create their own prescribed texts for their courses. This limits the cost of buying books for students and provides tailor-made course material for the lecturer.”

Information days encourage networking

information days dedicated to students and professionals in the construction industry. “Our Staalbouwdag (Steel Building Day) is targeted at university and technical college students,” notes Frank Maatje. “We bring students together, visit a steel fabricator or construction project, and then take them to the event where our student prize is presented.” More than 300 students take part every year. Bouwen met Staal also offers dedicated information days for architects and engineers.

Infosteel’s Steel Day attracts more than 500 construction professionals for a day of lectures and discussions around the use of steel in construction. “It enables them to update their knowledge and business network,” notes Philippe Coigné. “We also use the occasion to present our steel construction awards which typically feature more than 150 projects.”

Addressing local issues

In countries with specific concerns, IPOs are active in those areas. For example, Italy and Turkey are frequently affected by earthquakes. Steel IPOs in these countries actively lobby regulators for changes in building codes which take advantage of steel’s exceptional ability to mitigate the effect of seismic events. IPOs also organise technical working groups, educational courses, and undertake the construction of demonstration buildings to prove the benefits of using steel in these regions.

For steel producers such as ArcelorMittal, IPOs provide a way to communicate with a wider audience about our innovative steels and solutions for the construction sector. “We need to increase the level of knowledge amongst regulators, building professionals and the next generation who are currently studying architecture, building and construction,” explains Marta Dziarnowska, International Steel Promotion Director for ArcelorMittal. “The IPOs that ArcelorMittal works with are much better connected to their local audience than ArcelorMittal can be as an international steelmaker.”

Get more out of your local steel IPO

Each year, steel IPOs in Europe hold more than 500 events such as seminars and training courses which involve around 30,000 participants. On average 250 publications are delivered annually in local languages and more than one million people, mainly architects and engineers, visit the IPO websites.

Many steel IPOs also operate free help desks which can provide advice to the construction and building industry on local regulations and how steel can be utilised. IPOs such as Bouwen met Staal offer extensive databases of frequently asked questions (FAQ). “It’s the most-used section of our website,” notes Frank Maatje. “With the advent of Eurocodes, we’re working with other IPOs to create a Europewide database of FAQs relating to the use of steel in construction.”

It’s also possible to get involved in your local IPO. As well as steel producers, membership of an IPO is often open to related businesses and educators such as steel distributors, fabricators, profilers, product manufacturers, designers and professors at technical universities.