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IEQ and energy efficiency: Finding the right balance

ASHRAE’s First International Conference on Energy and Indoor Environment for Hot Climates was held from February 24-26 in Doha, Qatar. Organised by the ASHRAE Qatar Oryx Chapter under the patronage of H.E. Shaikha Abdullah Al Misnad, the President of Qatar University, the event underscored the balance that needs to be achieved between Indoor Environmental Quality and energy efficiency. Hassan Sultan, the Chair of the Organising Committee of the conference and the former President of the ASHRAE Qatar Oryx Chapter, in conversation with B Surendar of Climate Control Middle East.

| | Mar 7, 2014 | 11:58 am
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mar2014-interview04What were the objectives of the conference?

The first objective of conducting the conference was to have specific papers addressing issues related to energy efficiency and IEQ for hot climates. We wanted the papers to reflect the expertise in the region, because all of us are suffering from a lack of standards and special equipment to handle the extreme heat, humidity and other factors.

We encouraged some of the standards organisations and engineering institutes to participate with papers and key notes to address the issues, because the responsibility of focusing on the hot climatic conditions lies with local and international entities.

Another objective of the conference was to get the GCC base of HVAC manufacturers involved in the conference from our side, to talk of the various difficulties and also the good engineering practices.

Yet another objective of the conference was to have on board local research centres, like the Qatar Environment & Energy Research Institute (QEERI, Qatar Foundation) and Qatar University.

Further, we believed it was important to have networking among all the stakeholders – the standards bodies, societies and the manufacturers, to physically discuss around the table the various ideas that would benefit the region.

Do you feel you have achieved the objectives?

We have succeeded in achieving our objectives, case-in point being the participation of Qatar Foundation and Qatar University. We also succeeded in attracting most of the global bodies, like CIBSE, REHVA, WHO, AHRI, UNEP and IAPMO. In all, we hosted 60 speakers from around the world, presenting 45 papers.

What were the key insights and recommendations that emerged from the three days of discussions?

The assessment of the conference will take some time. We are a professional body, and there will be an assessment on, for example, how far we have achieved from a technical papers standpoint. Every single paper that was presented was reviewed by ASHRAE. Every single paper has got a set of conclusions. So we will now be collating and reviewing all the conclusions from the various papers presented in the different sessions over the three days, add our own assessments and come up with one final assessment report.

What do you plan to do with the report?

We are very open and transparent and will be posting them on our Web site for the benefit of engineering bodies and universities.

Could you share with the readers the extent of awareness on IEQ issues in Qatar?

Dr Walid Chakroun, ASHRAE Kuwait, Prof Rashed Al Amari of Qatar University, Hassan Sultan and William Bahnfleth, ASHRAE President

Dr Walid Chakroun, ASHRAE Kuwait, Prof Rashed Al Amari of Qatar University, Hassan Sultan and William Bahnfleth, ASHRAE President

IEQ is a hot subject. Earlier, people used to talk on IAQ, but we pressed for coverage of all issues related to human comfort, health and well-being in the built-environment. When it comes to IEQ, of course there are guidelines, but they are general in nature. For instance, if ASHRAE or CIBSE is addressing IEQ-related issues, they are not specific to hot climatic conditions. So we have to manipulate to see how the guidelines can be suitable for the GCC. It was left to each country to have its own documents. Hence, we thought of having a specific conference for the hot climate in the region and to have people from all over the world talking about it. There are other parts of the world that experience hot climatic conditions – places like Brazil and Mexico. This conference was an opportunity for delegates to listen to the experiences of architects and engineers from those countries.

In Qatar, there is some awareness on IEQ. A few years ago, the Ministry of Environment began studying IEQ. In order to come up with solutions, you have to follow a certain procedure of data collection, workshops, conferences and, finally, an assessment and legislation. Currently, there are many bodies in Qatar, like Kahramaa (Qatar General Electricity and Water Corporation) and GSAS (Global Sustainability Assessment System) that are looking into IEQ. GSAS, for instance, is implementing IEQ, if a particular project is GSAS-rated. But what we would like to see is a cohesive effort among the agencies. This conference will assist and give a hand to the efforts of different local authorities.

During this year’s AHR Expo in January in New York City, we saw discussions that sought to achieve a balance between IEQ and energy efficiency. How far did you succeed along that line of thought with this conference?

This conference was precisely about finding the balance. To look at it broadly, a particular refrigerant may be energy efficient, but is it good from an IEQ point of view? Perhaps not. So, it is important to balance IEQ, energy efficiency and also the budget. The private sector will implement special systems and sub-systems that use an acceptable refrigerant, but they will plan when they are going to get the money back. If the return period is 15 years, they will not invest. The idea should be doable and reliable.

What has been the general response to the conference?

The general response to the conference has been excellent. We invited the ministries, embassies, consultants and universities. Over the course of the three days of the conference, we received four to five ambassadors and representatives from the Qatar Society of Engineers, Ashghal, GORD and Kahramaa. For me, to have ambassadors attending was great. They said that the topics attracted them to come.

Additionally, we have received many requests asking us to conduct the conference next year, as well, but we haven’t taken a decision yet. It’s taken a year and four months to conduct this. It’s been a heartening experience.

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