A rich history of innovation creating a healthy, safe and sustainable built environment

History Timeline

  • 1931

    Colt Ventilation Ltd is founded by Jack O’Hea in London.

  • 1930's

    Colt vehicle ventilators are introduced. These used the movement of the vehicle to ensure both inlet and extract ventilation simultaneously.

  • 1930's

    “Colt Cowl” domestic chimney terminals are marketed under the slogan “Smoky Fires Definitely Cured (Underwritten money back guarantee)”.

  • 1930's

    Colt builds a highly advanced wind tunnel to test ventilation equipment as part of its investment programme in R&D and innovation

  • 1940

    The Colt black-out ventilator is launched for buildings and ships at the start of World War Two. This allowed ventilation through the black-out curtains into which it was sewn while preventing any light from leaking out.

  • 1940's

    Colt develops the industrial survey. Pictured here is a ventilation survey kit of the 1940's, showing a Filtrometer to measure pressure drop across air filters and an air meter to measure air velocity.

  • 1945

    The Clear Opening ventilator was developed which had an innovative rain channel incorporated into the pressed aluminium blades.

  • 1946

    The Sloping Roof ventilator is introduced for factories – the first to lie along the roof slope rather than on the ridge, reducing installation and maintenance costs. The Clear Opening ventilator is introduced for industrial buildings such as foundries, providing cooler working conditions while letting in natural daylight.

  • 1949

    The Inflow Unit for industrial buildings is launched. This fan unit warms, re-circulates and filters the incoming air. The modular build from standard components is an additional advantage, as it offers a wide variety of options.

  • 1950's

    Colt begins its expansion beyond Europe by working with distributors in Australasia, South Africa and the Middle East. The image shows the Colt team in 1953.

  • 1950's

    Colt pioneers the use of high grade aluminium alloy to replace steel, which had been the traditional material used for industrial roof ventilators. The use of this very light material eliminates the need for expensive support structures. It is easy to handle in production, transport and installation but very strong and durable, as proved by the great number of ventilators built by Colt in the 1950s that are still in working condition.

  • 1954

    Colt designs and installs the world’s first smoke ventilation system at the General Motors factory in Luton, UK. At this time, the advent of huge single-storey industrial buildings requires a new approach to fire safety: Colt introduces the concept of smoke ventilation, turning conventional wisdom to starve a fire of oxygen on its head. The image is of a fire at Jaguar in Coventry, UK, the results of which precipitated the interest in smoke ventilation.

  • 1960

    Colt begins its expansion into continental European markets through a joint venture with Braat Bowstoffen BV in the Netherlands and Belgium. In 1972 Colt it buys its joint venture partner out.

  • 1966

    Colt enters the German market through the Netherlands joint venture, and later expands into Belgium, France, Austria and Switzerland.

  • 1974

    Colt sets up its Pegasus R&D and Test Centre in Kleve, Germany.

  • 1978

    The O’Hea family gifts Colt shares to establish the Colt Foundation, a registered charity that funds research projects in the field of occupational and environmental health, especially those aimed at discovering the causes of illnesses arising from conditions in the workplace. In its first 36 years of operation it has awarded more than £14.3 million in grants to over 200 projects and supported over 240 students studying some aspect of occupational health. 

  • 1980's

    Colt develops a range of performance louvre and solar shading products to complement its ventilation products, extending the benefits of its energy efficient solutions.

  • 1993

    Colt launches Shadovoltaic, a combined solar shading, daylighting and electricity generating system for facades and roofs.

  • 1990's

    Colt sets up subsidiaries in Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong and the Middle East, and joint ventures in Spain and Saudi Arabia.

  • 1997

    Colt acquires Braat Glasconstructies BV, enabling it to bid for combined ventilation and rooflight projects. In 2013 this business is sold to Hak4t Groep BV.

  • 2000

    Colt invests in Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD). At this time it takes an average of 3 to 5 days to complete a simple simulation. Today a non-CFD expert can do the same job in only 30 minutes, using Colt ORCA, the online CFD tool.

  • 2000's

    Colt forms new companies in Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic.

  • 2004

    Colt creates a subsidiary in France, buying out a local partner, to provide better service to its customers.

  • 2006

    Colt creates new joint ventures in Portugal and Brazil, then in 2010 takes full ownership of the operation in Portugal.

  • 2006

    Colt sets up its own wholly-owned company in China, Colt China Manufacturing Company Limited, to provide high-quality Colt products to the Asia-Pacific region.

  • 2007

    Bomin Solar GmbH joins the Colt Group, adding its expertise in daylighting technology to the Company’s portfolio of energy efficient solutions.

  • 2007

    Colt creates a new joint venture in Australia, then takes full ownership in 2009.

  • 2008

    Colt sets up a Limited Liability Company in Dubai to better serve customers in the region.

  • 2009

    Colt and AWV (a division of Mestek Inc.) sign a new distribution agreement for solar shading to cover all of the USA.

  • 2010

    Colt wins an order for Emal, the world's largest, single-site smelter, to provide Labyrinth natural ventilators.

  • 2011

    Colt Netherlands is awarded the contract to supply a complete glass roof including smoke and heat exhaust ventilators for the new public transport terminal in The Hague (Den Haag OVT).

  • 2012

    Colt sets up a distribution agreement with Krieger Ltda in Brazil.

  • From 2012

    Colt introduces a new product portfolio of smoke ventilators with greatly improved thermal performance in compliance with customers’ requirements for increased energy savings, which include the Firelight Duo, Firelight FL3 and Airlite. To support this it develops Piatra, a new software package to demonstrate the choice of products affects their building’s energy performance and carbon footprint.

  • 2013

    Colt Germany participates in the design and installation of the world’s first algae bio-reactor façade at the BIQ house in Hamburg as part of a research project. Subsequently in 2014 Colt wins the Zumbtobel Group Award for the best applied innovation.

  • 2013

    Colt sets up a manufacturing and distribution agreement with The Bilco Corporation for distribution of natural ventilators in the USA, Canada and Mexico.

  • 2014

    Colt expands its CoolStream range for industrial, semi-industrial and commercial spaces featuring its proven evaporative cooling technology with the introduction of the CoolStream R, the first rooftop in the world that combines cooling, heating, heat recovery, air filtration and ventilation. The range now offers three families: CoolStream S that combines evaporative cooling with natural or mechanical ventilation, CoolStream N that combines it with natural ventilation through a façade, and the new CoolStream R that provides an “all-seasons” solution.

  • 2014

    Colt invests in its manufacturing base in China, the CCMC factory, to rationalise manufacturing processes, increase production efficiency, reduce lead times and ensure consistent quality levels to the high standards of Colt facilities around the world. Colt is also expanding the range of products manufactured at the plant to serve customers in China, Australia, Asia and the Middle East.

A family business, Colt was founded in the United Kingdom in 1931 by Jack O’Hea, who led the company with a dynamic entrepreneurial approach and a strong belief in innovation. 

Colt pioneered the science of smoke control and the research into the behaviour of smoke from fires since the 1950s and has since participated in the formulation of the European EN standards and other worldwide standards.

Over the years, we broadened our areas of expertise to include natural ventilation, climate control and solar shading with daylight optimization. We developed an integrated approach that harnesses natural elements to create a healthy and safe working environment and contributes to energy efficiency in commercial and industrial buildings. Colt is today present on all continents through a network of branches and distributors, spreading Colt Conditions around the world.