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Building controls set to double, says British Gas

British Gas claims the building management sector will double in size to £2 billion over the next five years.

The energy company, part of Centrica, made the prediction after its business division bought Slough-based Building Management Systems Integrators (BMSi) for an initial fee of £7 million plus a further £3 million, depending on performance.

It says the purchase of the HVAC controls specialist is the first step in a significant expansion through “major investment” and acquisitions.

Rod Pettigrew, head of commercial and legal at the Heating and Ventilating Contractors’ Association, said: “It is very interesting indeed that an organisation like British Gas is looking at this sector and seeing commercial opportunities but it does not surprise me they have come to that conclusion.

“New build is becoming scarcer and building management, maintenance and improvement are where people might see possibilities of growth. With new regulations clients are going to need skilled engineers.”

British Gas made its prediction following discussions with industry groups including the Federation of Environmental Trade Associations, the Energy Systems Trade Association and the Carbon Trust.

It expects revenue growth to come from smart meters, building controls and the optimisation of energy-hungry equipment such as heating, ventilation and air conditioning. It says higher energy costs and tighter regulation on carbon emissions will drive demand.

Phil Bentley, managing director of British Gas, said: “This rapidly growing market is also being driven by changing customer attitudes and the desire of many in business to demonstrate greater corporate responsibility.”

But Bruce Boucher, an environmental consultant and member of the Energy Per-formance Group at the Chartered Institution of Build-ing Services Engineers, questioned British Gas’s predictions.

He said: “The move is ambitious, but whether they are going to achieve their targets is doubtful. The market will continue to grow, but to say it is going to double on the back of cutting carbon emissions is a bit far-fetched.

“They are likely to be looking to replace the existing contractors already in place through cheaper prices or allegedly better services.”

Market research specialist Bsria said it had not conducted research specifically on the energy service market, but UK and EU targets for energy efficiency were increasing demand for energy saving in existing buildings.

Andrew Giles, general manager at Bsria Worldwide Market Intelligence, said: “Bsria forecasts that, despite the unfavourable conditions in the construction market, the Building Controls System market will still have 24 per cent growth in the next five years and energy conservation is one of the key drivers.”

“Building controls will be a key focus for energy saving. The only way one can improve it is to incorporate renewables or improve the operation and monitoring of existing systems. Building controls and management systems play an important role for both measures.”