Partnering deal with US manufacturer IAC Kawneer enables UK company to fight for a piece of the UK curtain-walling market.
A British firm is to challenge the five European curtain-walling manufacturers and installers that dominate the UK's £100m-200m-a-year market.

Baco Contracts, which specialises in aluminium cladding design and installation, has set up a partnering deal with US curtain walling manufacturer IAC Kawneer. This will enable it to provide large, pre-assembled panels of curtain walling. These panels, which are used on high-value contracts, have not previously been available from UK firms.

Baco managing director Peter Edwards said: "The vast majority of UK curtain-walling companies are so small they are unable to tackle big jobs. They don't have the manufacturing capacity or the financial muscle." The market for curtain-walling contracts in the £10m-15m range is dominated by European firms Focci, Schmidlen, Permasteelisa, Gartner and Bugg.

By teaming up with IAC Kawneer, Baco will be able to offer pre-assembled curtain walls without having to invest in the expensive equipment necessary to manufacture them.

Edwards said the firm decided to move into the market after years of UK architects, consultants and contractors complaining that they had no choice but to use European firms. "The industry has been critical of the UK curtain-walling industry because it is not able to offer the quality its European rivals can," said Edwards.

The more expensive pre-assembly method is preferred because panels assembled in a factory are thought to be less likely to leak between joints. Hundreds of British firms cannot bid for high-profile curtain-walling contracts because they are too small to underwrite the necessary warranties.

They usually only tackle jobs under £5m. Edwards said his firm, which has an annual turnover of £15m-20m, has overcome this hurdle because it is owned by British Aluminium, which has a £500m turnover. British Aluminium will sign and underwrite each contract while Baco carries them out with its partner.

Responsibility for defects will be shared by the two companies, with IAC Kawneer responsible for the warranty on parts it has manufactured and Baco for installation, running the contract and any external treatment.

Baco and IAC are bidding for two £10m-15m jobs: one at Heron Quays in London Docklands with Ove Arup & Partners; the other at University College Hospital, London, with Amec as preferred bidder on the private finance initiative project.