The multi-storey office building market in Australia is a large industry and has experienced unprecedented growth through the latter half of the 1980's. The industry is characterised by oligopoly amongst raw material suppliers and major manufacturers and fragmentation and strong competition amongst subcontractors.
A major part of any multi-storey office building, be it 3 storeys high or 60 storeys high, is the structural frame which acts as the building skeleton and provides support to the rest of the building. The structural frame typically comprises columns, floor beams and floor slabs, and the lift core. Traditionally, building structural frames have been constructed from one of two materials; either structural steel or reinforced concrete. In the 1960's, structural steel was by far the most popular choice for building frames however from the 1970's through to the mid 1980's reinforced concrete became increasingly popular until in 1985 concrete had about 95% of the building frame market.
The decline in usage was brought about by a number of factors, some of which were poor steel supply, costly steel fabrication and erection techniques, and industrial disputation. The last 6 years have seen a resurgence, nationally, in the use of structural steel framing and steel presently has a market share of about 37%, with reinforced concrete enjoying the remainder. This situation however is not reflected in the Brisbane multi-storey office building market where concrete has been used almost exclusively for the last two decades. It is apparent that marketing strategies used in Brisbane over the last 5 years have not had the same success as similar strategies in all other mainland capital cities. This suggests that local factors have resisted the swing to steel construction.
Of all the participants in the structural frame decision-making process (e.g. the structural engineer, architect, quantity surveyor etc) the builder is considered to be the most fertile source of information concerning the issues involved in this process. The purpose of this report is to determine Brisbane builders' attitudes to the use of alternative structural frame materials, and in particular structural steel, and to examine the issues builders consider to be important in the decision-making process.
The purpose of the research is achieved specifically by (1) determining builders' objectives in the structural frame selection decision, (2) measuring builders' expectations of how well steel and concrete alternatives satisfy the selection objectives, and (3) examining builders' perceptions of the roles of other key decision-makers and generally exploring any other issues which builders perceive to be important in this context. Research methods adopted consist of a literature review of industrial buying behaviour and a review of technical issues related to the alternative framing materials selection process. A qualitative research approach was then adopted using depth interview techniques supplemented by a questionnaire comprising both open and closed-ended questions. Sheth's model of industrial buying behaviour was adopted as a conceptual framework for the research.
The survey covered 18 building companies which constitutes approximately 90% of the medium and large builders located in Brisbane. The survey measured the expectation of individual builders as to how well-suited reinforced concrete or structural steel is to building frame construction. It also raised a large number of issues that impact on the frame selection process; the major ones being cost, speed of construction, minimisation of risk, delivery performance and site safety. The report concludes with a number of recommendations concerning marketing initiatives that should be addressed by the steel industry.