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Boom time for beamsSeptember 2007

Chilled ceilings and beams have been around since the early 1990s, but it seems the market's perception is finally swinging in their favour.

Up until recently the cooling capacity of chilled ceilings and beams was perceived as inadequate, and associated with high initial capital costs. However, continued product development and the increased number of projects incorporating chilled ceilings and beams is changing that view.

The market grew by 33 percent in 2006 compared with 2005, but BSRIA believes this is just the tip of the iceberg: significant growth of around 40 percent is predicted from 2007, based on the known volume of orders. This will change the shape of the UK terminal unit market. In 2006, the UK market for terminal units was estimated to be worth around £54 million, including chilled ceilings and beams.

An important driver is the demand for energy efficient buildings prompted by tougher requirements in Part L of the Building Regulations. Chilled panels and beams are therefore being given higher priority by clients and consultants.

Another important factor is strong growth in the commercial building sector, with a 13.4 percent volume increase in 2006. The growth came from a 10 percent increase in the education, health and office sectors. BSRIA expects this growth to continue until the end of 2008. Conservative estimates put growth at eight percent in 2008 and seven percent in 2009.

Multi-service chilled beams (mscbs) are the most popular chilled ceiling systems when rated by both value and volume. This trend is expected to continue, at least in the short term.

The mscbs include lamps, passive-infrared detectors, public address speakers, fire detectors, sprinklers and a local building management system controller. Such products can be constructed, commissioned and adjusted offsite, saving a considerable amount of time and money for both the contractors and the client.

Multi-service chilled beams are mostly installed in prestigious offices where a high aesthetic is important and short delivery time is paramount. The key players in this segment are Frenger, Trox and Halton. Between them these firms accounted for 84 percent of UK sales in 2006.

Commodity active beams (beams without multi-service capability) have also showed remarkable growth in 2006. These products do not require additional ventilation such as displacement ventilation or mixed ventilation. Projects with lower budgets prefer these simpler types of chilled beam.

Passive chilled beams are continuing to drop in popularity. However, these products are still specified for office perimeter zones to deal with solar gain.

Some suppliers are anticipating passive beams to become popular again, driven by the rising pressure to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from buildings beyond the current regulatory requirements. The significant players in this segment are Frenger, Trox, Swegon and LTI Systems (the Keifer brand). Between them these firms accounted for over 80 percent of UK sales in 2006.

Most chilled ceilings/beams sold in the UK are imported from Sweden, Germany and Finland. UK-assembled or modified products are a recent development.

While chilled ceilings and beams will continue to be a green and low maintenance option, the systems will mostly be specified for offices. This leaves the suppliers at the mercy of the office market. When it dips, perhaps as Olympics projects begin to dominate the construction industry, so will sales of chilled beams. Suppliers of chilled beam systems therefore need to diversify into other types of buildings to avoid fluctuations in sales.

For more information contact Worldwide Market Intelligence at BSRIA:

Tel: +44 (0) 1344 465600
or email