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Looking back and looking forward

One of the drawbacks of writing a column for more than a year is that you get to be held to account for your predictions. Luckily, my prediction for cooling sector growth, based on increased activity in the construction sector, came true.

A really good summer boosted the splits market in particular, and growth in the construction industry, continued to help VRF and chiller sales. Last December, we had already enjoyed several months of growth in the construction industry, which continued throughout the year.

I am going to go for the same prediction again – the latest figures show that the economy is continuing to grow and wages are beginning to rise above inflation. Already the economy is 2.7 per cent above where we were before the banks’ meltdown.

I will sound a note of caution, though, because at the same point after the 1990 recession we were actually 15.7 per cent ahead – so by comparison, it is clear that this recovery is still fragile and slow, but it is going in the right direction.

The construction industry is still also going in the right direction, with the September figures showing it was up 5.8 per cent on August and 11.7 per cent on the previous year.

Of course, not every construction project provides customers for AC (not much call for it on a road scheme as a rule) but 53 per cent of the sector covers commercial, retail, hotel, leisure, medical and industrial.

Unfortunately, this growth is not spread evenly throughout the country – nearly a quarter of all new projects are in Greater London.

I made two other New Year wishes in January, neither of which has come true. My first was for us all to get the heat pump message across to developers. While we have made further progress, there is still a long way to go before they are automatically considered for heating buildings as a matter of course.

My second wish was for the industry to resolve to produce a definitive road map for where we are going on refrigerants. While there is lots of activity in this area,  it has not been a cohesive road map.

The availability of even recycled R22 finishes at the end of this month for good and there is still no universally accepted alternative.

Larger organisations have generally converted away from R22 –  either going for a drop-in replacement or upgrading their systems to new non-R22 equipment – but that still leaves a huge number of smaller commercial and public end-users that are still blithely running on R22.

However, the industry shouldn’t blame itself for not getting the message across  – some people just don’t listen, no matter how loud you shout.

Merry Christmas and a prosperous new year to you all.

Julian Brunnock is sales and marketing director of Clivet UK

Julian Brunnock is sales and marketing director of Clivet UK

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