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COP21: Countdown to Paris – ‘Industry conversations are calling for government intervention on shorter time-lines’

In part I of this series, Christopher LaBorde reviewed how the global HVAC industry was poised for real change. In part II, he addresses reasons why the UAE is the perfect location for transformational HVAC leadership.

| | Aug 5, 2015 | 12:23 pm
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In part I of this series, Christopher LaBorde reviewed how the global HVAC industry was poised for real change. In part II, he addresses reasons why the UAE is the perfect location for transformational HVAC leadership.


The UAE faces many of the same HVAC challenges as do other parts of the world. In fact, at the 8th edition of The Climate Control Conference, held from June 15 to 16 in Dubai, moderators posed this question to the room at the end of the conference: “What would it take to create real market transformation?” Many of the top minds in the field of HVAC in the Middle East were in the room. Some of the answers to this question included the following:

Christopher LaBorde, Business Development Manager for the MENA Region at TrakRef.

Christopher LaBorde, Business Development Manager for the MENA Region at TrakRef.

  • “The system owners need to be informed.”
  • “The tech solutions must be designed by the people that work on the systems.”
  • “Better education on maintenance-related best practices is necessary.”
  • “An elegant way to prove that maintenance work is needed.”
  • “The industry must move away from paper-based invoicing and record keeping.”
  • “Each stakeholder needs tailored solutions to communicate with other stakeholders.”
  • “We need proven registration and certification for each HVAC service technicians.”

People in the room had more answers, but these were the topics of focus. These answers also struck me as particularly significant, because they were some of the exact same criteria that industry professionals had determined necessary for market transformation in the United States. What also struck me as interesting was that in one of the most high-cost industries in the world, five of these answers involved improving basic communication. Despite these similarities in answers between the two countries for HVAC solutions, it’s worth noting that some of the UAE versus US problems are different.

One contrast in particular is a differing approach to time-lines. The UAE cities have experienced explosive building growth. And in the rest of the world, this kind of growth has taken twice to four times the number of years to achieve in even the fastest growing cities. This shorter time-line for growth in the UAE, however, has also permeated the FM industry that maintains these buildings. Many of the building maintenance agreements are dictated by outside market forces to be one-to three-year contracts versus the UK and US FM agreements that are three- to eight-year contracts. This makes things difficult for the buildings, because long-term value can’t be put on a short-term time-line, and there are significant challenges that occur because of this. As a result of the powerful market forces that drive these shorter time-lines, industry conversations are calling for government intervention.

The UAE has the distinct advantage over places like the United States when it comes to their ability to aggressively tackle these kind of large problems with action. Both Dubai and Abu Dhabi have progressive histories of quickly learning from the mistakes of other cities, adapting according to relevant lessons and articulating their own distinct paths forward. For better or worse, the United States and the UK are slow-moving and controlled by multiple layers of decision-makers, who are often frozen in disagreement. Since the UAE government is nimble and has shown that they can tackle significant problems, they are in a great position to take on the challenge of changing the current and very costly HVAC issues.

Over the last 15 months of meeting with industry experts, I have tried to define what costs are associated with the HVAC sector in the UAE. So far I have learnt that up to 70% of the power produced for the UAE goes to the HVAC sector. Well over a billion dollars in HVAC assets are replaced annually in the UAE, and – just like in the United States – there is a very large carbon footprint from leaky HVAC systems, possibly four times the carbon footprint of cars on the road. Once these costs were in focus as the primary drivers of the cost of keeping things cool in the UAE (and in the rest of the Gulf), my next question was “Does the UAE have an appetite for solving this problem and creating positive change?” The answer has been a resounding and powerful “Yes!”

A quick google search using combinations of the following words: UAE, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Plan, Vision, Sustainability, Efficiency, Demand Side Power and Air Quality produces hundreds of results that show the UAE’s commitment to changing the current status quo of HVAC. On top of that, Dubai’s 2020 World Expo theme, “Connecting Minds, Creating the Future” and their recent pledge to become the hub for the international green industry also demonstrates the UAE’s commitment to reshaping the efficiency as well as the environmental side of the HVAC landscape. The UAE appears to be ready for change, and it is also ready to show the world how to change.

In the short term, these changes will be showcased when the UAE hosts 30,000 to 40,000 delegates, dignitaries, and industry specialists in Dubai for the Montreal Protocol Summit meeting in late October and early November. This will be an extremely important meeting, as it is the preliminary meeting for the COP 21 Climate Conference in Paris – the single most important UNEP meeting in the organisation’s history – with goals of shaping environmental standards for the next 20 years. In the long term, Dubai will be hosting an estimated over 25 million visitors in the days leading up to and during World Expo 2020. In both cases, the world’s eyes will be on the UAE, while looking over the city of Dubai.

To be continued…
CPI Industry accepts no liability for the views or opinions expressed in this column, or for the consequences of any actions taken on the basis of the information provided here.


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