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Engineering Conservation

In an interview with Climate Control Middle East, Phil Barnett, Property Manager at Grand Hyatt Dubai, gives an insight into the various initiatives the hotel has taken to make it environmentally sustainable.

| | May 15, 2010 | 11:17 am
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In an interview with Climate Control Middle East, Phil Barnett, Property Manager at Grand Hyatt Dubai, gives an insight into the various initiatives the hotel has taken to make it environmentally sustainable. The article also brings to light the fact that engineers are often the unsung heroes in the battle of conservation.

Phil Barnett

Phil Barnett

A hotel is a microcosm. Running it is akin to running a small community of diverse people with varying needs and demands. And to run it efficiently and economically is a challenge. Add the dimension of making it an environmentally sustainable undertaking, and it becomes a balancing act. Phil Barnett should know. He, as the Property Manager of Grand Hyatt Dubai, is familiar with its inner workings. He knows that behind all the glitz and glamour, a luxury hotel needs to have a welloiled and complex machinery that keeps the establishment running. As a longtime resident of Dubai, with his relevant and rich experience at Hyatt Regency Deira, he has brought to the table innovative measures that are helping make Grand Hyatt Dubai environmentally sustainable.

THE POWER OF AN IDEA

During his time at Hyatt Regency, Barnett was instrumental in installing a condensate reclamation system in the hotel. Thanks to the system, Barnett and his team were able to capture cold water runoff from chilled water coils, which they collected and piped to cooling towers as make-up water for the cooling towers. “The best part of the unique measure was that the condensate water was very cold,” Barnett says. “That, in itself, was a step forward in terms of savings, as it cut down on refrigeration plant power consumption. So, on partially humid days, we got 25 gallons a day of the water. Since cold water is being sent into a system that is already producing cold water, the reclamation system not only saves water, but also, the power is absolutely free, except for the power consumption, in the form of pump costs. Apart from that, there are no running costs.”

THE BACKROOM BOYS

Engineers are often the unsung heroes in the cause of energy saving. Barnett echoes this sentiment when he says: “As engineers, we continually look at new ways of power conservation.” A cost-cutting initiative Barnett introduced in the hotel exemplifies this: changing the electricity steam boilers into gas-fired boilers. “I thus reduced electricity consumption and cost,” says Barnett. “In those days, we did not have the concept of Green Buildings. Such buildings did not exist. But that’s what these initiatives amounted to – water and power savings. We were looking at energy conservation.”

Barnett also introduced the regimen of a yearly thermograph survey, which helped in identifying air leaks. “Through the initiative, we stopped air conditioned air from escaping from the building,” says Barnett. “It identified installation failures and air conditioning losses.” As a remedy, Barnett and his men installed air curtains and brought costs down.

EVERY ‘PHIL’ COUNTS

There was a time in Dubai, when people and businesses used power indiscriminately. There seemed to be a perennial supply of it, and not many were interested in counting the costs – both economic and environmental. But everyone was made to sit up and pause for thought when costs began to pinch.

“Early in the 1990s – in 1992, in fact – the price of city’s power increased from 7.50 fils/KW to 15 fils/KW,” recalls Barnett. “It was a 100% increase! It caused people to press the panic buttons, and everybody got onto the energy-conservation bandwagon. Today, it is 33 fils!”

SCREAMING IT FROM ROOFTOPS

In 2003, Grand Hyatt opened, and Barnett executed a couple of innovative concepts there. One of them was a solar hot water project. Barnett elaborates: “It was an idea I had to use the cinema (Grand Cineplex) roof space, which was wide open, and which gets sunlight all day long. And it is adjacent to the hotel’s dieselfired hot water plant. So, by installing solar panels, I was able to produce hot water that was heated by solar energy.”

This is how the system worked, and still does: In conjunction with storage facility, the water was heated during the day and well into the evening, at which point, the diesel-fired boiler took over. “I’m achieving a high temperature, and I need 70ºC to satisfy the internal requirements of the building,” Barnett says. “I have been saving diesel fuel consumption by 33% every year. That’s a heck of a lot of carbon – a gallon of diesel equals 2.7 kilogrammes of carbon dioxide. So, it’s savings in hundreds of thousands of gallons. It is not only a saving on diesel costs, but also a reduction in carbon emissions.”

SPRINGING A SURPRISE

Apart from introducing innovative ideas, troubleshooting is another of Barnett’s specialities. The trouble, in this case, sprung in the form of mildew and fungus in the residential building of the Grand Hyatt. “In summer, we received hot and humid air, and we were not able to cool it enough to get the moisture out,” recounts Barnett. “The dehumidification system would have cost us 175KW/ hour in electrical reheating, to dehumidify the necessary fresh air. I overcame this by installing two coils in each fresh air unit.”

The problem, Barnett figured out, was humidity entering the apartment – an inability to cool the outside air below its dew point. Thus, humidity was being carried indoors, as a result of which, mildew and fungus sprouted.

Design consultants offered conventional dehumidification solutions, including duct re-heating and/or desiccant wheels. Both solutions would have meant consumption of very large amounts of electricity. Calculations showed the estimates at 175KW/hour.

Barnett hit upon a simple plan: “My solution was a thin coil placed on the fresh air stream before the chilled water coil, and connecting it to a similar coil after the chilled water coil. A closed loop circulated with a fractional horsepower pump through each coil. This carried outside air temperature – which can reach 45ºC – to the inner coil, when the air passing through it is reheated from 12ºC to 17ºC. This allowed us to cool the incoming air below its dew point, thus expelling all humidity, and then reheating this air using a heat transfer. This achieved a temperature of 5ºC and solved the problem, with no electrical consumption. I did this four years ago, and have not had a problem since then.”

GOING DOWN THE DRAIN

Barnett’s next project at the Grand Hyatt was to install an effluent treatment plant. “Firstly, I got the city of Dubai to give me a second effluent connection,” Barnett explains. “The Director of Drainage agreed to help supply the effluent to cooling tower make-up water. The effluent has lot of suspended solids and has minerals in it. I installed a treatment plant to filter the particulates suspended in the water. Secondly, I installed an RO section to remove some of the dissolved minerals by mixing these two waters together. I produced make-up water that was similar in consistency to Dubai mains water.”

The entire exercise had interesting and far-reaching implications. It translated into environmental and economic sustainability. For one, the city supplies effluent water at a fraction of the cost of mains water. This means that in summer, the hotel is able to save 100,000 gallons of drinking water a day.

Installing automatic taps and flow restrictors in guest rooms was yet another measure the hotel adopted. Albeit a minor, low-cost initiative, it is still a laudable one.

INNOVATION IS THE KEY

The hybrid transformer from South Korea

The hybrid transformer from South Korea

Barnett, in keeping with hotel’s policy, is always on the lookout for new ways to cut costs and energy consumption. So, when he was recently introduced to a hybrid transformer made in South Korea, he put it to good use. “The South Korean company said that it would save 8-10% of power consumption,” Barnett says. “They offered to install it on a trial basis, at no cost to me. Today, I am happy to say, I have had it running since mid-November 2009, and I get 13-14% average savings in my power consumption every month. I’m happy with the machine. It will pay for itself in one and a half years. After that, it is a case of clear profits.”

The device, Barnett explains, has no moving parts, and is, therefore, maintenance free: “The way it works is that it sits next to the DEWA transformer and balances your power and removes all harmonics. In big buildings with VFDs, harmonics is a big problem in increasing your power consumption. In power, you have a nice, smooth wave. When you are supplying a non-linear load, another wave comes backwards and causes interference. And to overcome the back wave, you consume more power. This device cleans up the back wave.”

Barnett has taken this innovative experiment a step further: “I showed this device to the DEWA people and told them, ‘This is the future’. It is expensive, but the net result is that you use less power.”

Grand Hyatt Dubai currently has 28 transformers, each 1,500 kVA, but only one of the transformers has been fitted with the device. Barnett is studying the loads of the other transformers so that he can take a call on expanding the use of the device in future installations. “I want to save money and power,” says Barnett.

LIGHT MINUS HEAT

To replace the MR16 halogen spotlights in the hotel is another initiative that Barnett wants to undertake. “They look nice, but cost money,” he says. “They use 50W of electricity. Over 90% of the electricity is dissipated as heat. LED has replaced the MR16. It is similar in colour and intensity, but uses only 7W of electricity, and burns absolutely cool. So no heat is generated.”

This implies that there is less heat load on the building, which in turn, means the air conditioning does not need to be notched up higher to cool the interiors. In the final analysis, not only is there savings in terms of bringing down the energy use from 50W to 7W but there is also a reduction in the heat load.

Barnett is, therefore, understandably in a hurry to get rid of the halogen lamps in the hotel. He says with palpable enthusiasm: “I have 2,500 halogen lamps to be replaced with LED. 50W down to 7W, and no heat! So electricity load and air conditioning load will come down. Also, the bulbs will have 25,000 hours as opposed to 3,000 hours’ lifetime. They are expensive, but the payback is six months. Definitely, LED is the way to go. We are looking at installing them this year.”

WATER – GREY AREAS

Another initiative Grand Hyatt Dubai is considering is to install a system to conserve rinse water generated by the laundry system. The rinse water has relatively less soap and no dirt. The good news is, it can be captured and processed through a filtration system and into a tank.

“After that, it is a matter of delivering the water to the machines as wash water – reusing the water many, many times,” explains Barnett. “The rinse water comes back to the machine as wash water. There is currently fresh water coming in. So that would be 50% savings on consumption of fresh water.”

The hotel also has its sights set on using the building’s grey water – capturing it and passing it through a small treatment plant for coloration purposes and cleaning it. It can be subsequently used to flush toilets. Currently, fresh water is being used for this purpose. Barnett, with one eye on water conservation and another on cost cutting, exclaims, “What a waste of this fresh water! Grey water will save us money and 30,000 gallons a day!”

Barnett believes that the project can easily be implemented, as the hotel building already has a twopipe system in place.

CORPORATE COMMITMENT TOWARDS CONSERVATION

Barnet’s personal commitment to safeguard the environment and to cut costs is aligned to that of Hyatt Hotels, which wants to be recognised for its CSR policy, vis-à-vis the environment. The powers that be would like every Hyatt hotel the world over to reduce water and electricity usage by 15% by 2015. “To achieve this, you have to do the kind of things I am doing,” Barnett says. “These initiatives cost money.”

The Wasl Corp, which owns the hotel is aware of the virtues of retrofitting and embracing new ideas to make the establishment more comfortable, efficient and environmentally friendly. Barnett endorses this: “I made a presentation to the owning company. They listened to me and accepted the savings potential. They also appreciated the environmental impact reductions. They were pleased that we were leaning in this direction.”

The corporate support has nudged Barnett to push his agenda forward: “Initially, it is a challenge to persuade the owners of any facility, but it depends on how the plan and the vision are presented. It has to be presented properly, and not just the commercial perspective, because in some cases, the ROI period could be long. But the impact on environment is equally important. We are looking at solar lighting technologies.” But Barnett adds with cautious enthusiasm: “We are investigating; I don’t want to rush. I believe in stringent tests of the technologies, and if satisfied, will go in that direction. If they give lights for only four hours, that is not good enough for me.”

GRAND PLANS

With all the groundwork that Grand Hyatt has done under the guidance of Barnett, LEED certification would, perhaps, be the logical step forward. Barnett concedes this and adds: “Hyatt is one of the founding members of the Emirates Green Building Council (EGBC). I am still in contact with Dr Sadek Owainati (EGBC co-founder) – he was the lead consultant for this building, and so he has a soft spot. He is in dialogue with me to turn this into a certified green building. We have to look what it is going to cost us. It is a goal. Certain things we are stuck with, considering it is an already constructed building.”

The Hyatt Initiative

The Hyatt head office has set up a special division for conservation, with its own Vice President, to administer global Hyatt environmental initiatives. Under this, each hotel is monitored and compared electronically. Global reports are issued to gauge their performance, based on overall targets. “We are introducing compulsory energy audits,” says Phil Barnett. “We are given targets, benchmarks, lists of conservation techniques, operational procedures, down to devices, such as timers and motion detectors. All these technologies can save electricity and water.”

Barnett informs that in addition, every Hyatt hotel has formed a green team consisting of representatives from all levels and departments in the building. “We sit together on a monthly basis and talk about our observations and ideas, and where they see savings potential,” he elaborates.

The ideas that emerge from the meetings are highlighted in the minutes and action plans are issued. In addition, the green team’s initiatives are shared by all Hyatt hotels. Barnett adds: “If someone in some other Hyatt hotel – say, in California – has a good idea, we pick it up in Dubai. Many of the good ideas do not come only from the top management but also from the guy at the operational level.”


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