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HVAC – the shape of things to come

With mega construction projects visible on the Middle East horizon, the HVAC industry is gearing itself to go smart and green. We bring you a report on top trends, prepared by Josine Heijmans, Event Director, The Big 5 Dubai. As the population in the Middle East grows in number and in affluence, the extreme climate […]

| | Oct 18, 2015 | 10:14 am
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With mega construction projects visible on the Middle East horizon, the HVAC industry is gearing itself to go smart and green. We bring you a report on top trends, prepared by Josine Heijmans, Event Director, The Big 5 Dubai.

As the population in the Middle East grows in number and in affluence, the extreme climate has made heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems an increasingly accessible necessity. As one of the largest markets in the world for private and commercial systems, the enormous investment that is being ploughed into construction projects in the region means demand is on course to build on the growing global need for energy-efficient HVAC systems.

This represents a significant opportunity for contractors and suppliers to the region’s existing multibillion industry, especially in the build-up to major trade shows like The Big 5, which takes place in November at Dubai World Trade Centre, each year. The Big 5 is the largest construction event in the Middle East, and last year, attracted thousands of industry leaders from 147 countries around the world. As market performance of innovations in HVAC technologies grows, so does the number of dedicated HVAC exhibitors interested in showcasing their latest products and solutions. The Big 5, therefore, remains a hub for construction professionals to visit and understand more about this increasingly evolving market. It is also an ideal opportunity to capitalise on regional trends.

HVAC is a discipline of mechanical engineering and is especially important in the design of medium-to-large industrial and office buildings, such as skyscrapers, and in marine environments – for example, aquariums. This is because these environments have very specific requirements when it comes to using fresh air from outside to create safe and healthy conditions, and to regulate indoor climates, temperature, and humidity. There is also a growing market for residential systems, as people become more informed about the cost benefits and of their own environmental impact.

In a report published by rnrmarketresearch, titled ‘Green Construction Outlook and Trends’, more than 88% of industry respondents indicated they plan to adopt green construction products within their projects over the next three years. Fifty-three per cent of those same participants also said that they expect North America and Western Europe to continue creating opportunities for these projects. At the same time, there is also evidence that the Middle East is developing a reputation of its own as one of the global pioneers of green construction and, therefore, a new destination for energy-efficient HVAC solutions.

This is clear from the number of LEED-certified projects in the region, which reached 1,236 just two years ago. Meanwhile, with a strong commitment to supporting sustainability in construction, the US Green Building Council’s LEED building rating system is not the only indicator of a green revolution.

Momentum is definitely gathering towards renewable energy in the Middle East, and this is feeding into the market for HVAC systems. Since an efficient system can cut consumption by between 35 and 40%, this brings additional benefits in terms of costs. This is because heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and refrigeration are considered to be among the single largest energy-consumers in buildings and account for 60% of total energy costs. Therefore, it is not surprising to see governments and contractors adopting better HVAC design standards and technologies.

The industry is also showing that it is capable of maintaining strong growth despite competition from the increasing number of District Cooling facilities being commissioned. This is potentially positive when considering that the District Cooling industry is growing at 10% year-on-year in places like the UAE and 26% in Saudi Arabia. Nevertheless, both industries must continue innovating.

One reason for this is that District Cooling technologies have not necessarily kept pace with the speed with which the industry is growing, implying that some plants are operating the same technology that was in place a decade ago. However, in contrast, HVAC systems are proving highly innovative. In a region where energy demand outstrips supply, we share some insights on how the latest trends support this idea, and what the future might hold for the HVAC industry in the Middle East.

Top six trends in the HVAC industry

  1. HVAC will get smarter

The one thing that is certain about almost all industries is that things are going to get much smarter much quicker. HVAC is no different in this respect, and as demand for integration across our increasingly technological world increases, we are going to see this reflected in HVAC technologies, more so than ever before. Smart thermostats that are controlled by mobile devices are just one of the technologies currently being explored on account of their ability to increase efficiency and to cut utility bills. There is also the fact that these and other smart systems will lead to potentially bigger data, which can, in turn, be used to regulate energy supply. The ability to see data can also have a very positive impact on behaviour patterns and lead to the creation of more sustainable energy usage across the board.

  1. Mobile applications offer enormous potential

HVAC-compatible mobile applications have the potential to transform the way that daily tasks are set up, accomplished, and archived. This is especially relevant in the maintenance and service industries. A number of companies have unveiled systems that link specialised devices to dispatch and central documentation systems, so that technicians can gain quick and simple access to the information they need to perform tasks, with greater ease. Among the benefits of these systems are faster response times and easier access to customer files. Another is the competitive advantage that comes from having developed these applications, which includes the potential to become increasingly competitive and grow. This can be vital in the fast-paced commercial environments that are found throughout the Middle East.

  1. Software will become more connected and multifaceted

New methods of modernisation, higher efficiency, and system control are constantly being introduced around the world, but one thing that will become increasingly important for those who manage building controls, will be the ability to leverage simple technological solutions that are capable of combining multiple actions in one interface, without losing usability or functionality of the various components that are required to produce a more comfortable indoor environment. The idea is, of course, that these systems will eventually be integrated with smart grids and smart cities that are able to communicate with individual buildings and distribute energy supply more evenly across the day and during times when demand is low. For large offices and commercial buildings, this can reduce the pressure on grids, but could be equally relevant in residential units, the majority of which are all vacant at the same time.

  1. Demand for HVAC will continue to be linked to the construction industry

It goes without saying that the demand for HVAC systems will continue to be linked to the construction industry, and in the Middle East that means big business may be on the horizon for suppliers. According to the latest data on the construction industry, the region is set for sturdy growth over the next 30 years. The value of construction contracts to be awarded across the region is projected at US$193.65 billion in 2015 alone, and 30 of the top megaprojects in the region are worth an estimated US$340 billion. Some of these developments are still in the design phase, while others are under construction. At the same time, education, infrastructure, healthcare and residential projects have been identified as top priorities for the Middle East governments, and are also some of the most demanding and challenging environments when it comes to maintaining temperature and humidity.

  1. Increasing demand for smart comfort control

The market for home automation products is poised for strong growth, and according to some forecasts, could reach USD 12 billion by 2020. This is due in part to the level of convergence and synergies being created between technologies, home and working environments, and daily habits. Economic circumstances, increased awareness and a greater environmental conscientiousness are also likely to be factors in driving growth within the industry. One piece of research suggests that once people switch, they don’t go back, whether they move house or not. Instead, the likelihood is that they’ll install a new system if the house they are moving into does not have an HVAC system. Companies that are prepared to explore this market early will have the upper hand as it matures and the demand increases.

  1. Proprietary controls

Expect to see an increase in the number of proprietary controls – that is, systems that are manufactured by one supplier. These have advantages in that all systems are produced and maintained by the same company and are typically fully compatible. However, the flip side of this is that once installed, customers have little flexibility or leverage when it comes to maintenance. It also means, if a product is discontinued, upgrades may be required.

Top six green megaprojects to watch

Msheireb Downtown Doha

Organisation: Msheireb Properties

Country: Qatar

Status: Design/Construction

Cost: USD 5,500 million

The Msheireb Downtown Doha project is a collection of around 100 properties that are part of a major regeneration project in the heart of the Qatari capital of Doha. Fifty-nine of the projects have LEED certification targets, making it potentially one of the highest concentrations of buildings to meet the US Green Building Council’s certification standards.

The buildings are being restored to a souq design, and the entire site has been designed to be self-cooling through streets that have been designed to funnel the sea breeze throughout the area. The shadow that each building casts has also been carefully considered with buildings progressively taller towards the south. In 2015 the Diwan Annex building achieved LEED Platinum certification, the highest level of recognition for a development under the US Green Building Council criteria.

Kuwait International Airport (Expansion)

Developer: Directorate General of Civil Aviation

Country: Kuwait

Status: Tender process

Cost: USD 4,800 million

The Kuwait International Airport project is expected to significantly increase the capacity of the existing airport facilities and establish a new regional air hub. The project’s aims include a terminal building that offers the highest levels of comfort for passengers, while setting new environmental benchmarks for airport buildings in the Gulf. Its design is rooted in a sense of the place, responsive to the climate of one of the hottest inhabited environments on earth, and inspired by local forms and materials.

The building is planned under a single canopy, punctuated by glazed openings that filter daylight, while deflecting direct solar radiation. It is also targeting LEED Gold certification and aims to be the first passenger terminal in the world to attain this. The large expanse of roof-mounted photovoltaic panels will harvest solar energy, while the concrete structure will provide thermal mass. The airport will initially accommodate 13 million passengers a year, with the potential to rise to up to 50 million.

Riyadh Airport Terminal 3 and 4 (Expansion)

Developer: General Authority for Civil Aviation

Country: Saudi Arabia

Status: Under construction

Cost: USD 1,390 million

The expansion of King Khalid International Airport will deliver a state-of-the-art terminal complex that creates a world-class experience for passengers arriving in Riyadh. This will be combined with the redevelopment of existing terminals that currently serve around 15 million people. Following which, both new and existing terminals will be seamlessly integrated to meet increasing demand for air transportation links that will continue to drive the world’s 19th biggest economy.

By expanding its three main airports in Dammam, Jeddah, and Riyadh, Saudi Arabia hopes to have a combined future capacity of 140 million passengers a year. Meanwhile, having appointed global architect, design, engineering and construction service provider, AECOM, as project and construction manager, the new-look airport terminals in Riyadh are expected to have an innovative environmental dimension.

Bahrain International Airport Development (Immediate Terminal Expansion)

Developer: Bahrain Airport


Country: Bahrain

Status: Enabling works under way

Cost: USD 1,000 million

Bahrain International Airport is another air transport hub that is undergoing a transformation that has become characteristic of the Middle East region. In line with the airport’s physical redevelopment, the Manama-based airport will also undergo a major transformation when it comes to information and communications technology and the installation of ultra-low voltage systems.

Ultra-low voltage systems are a class of microprocessor that is deliberately underclocked to use less power at the expense of performance. They are commonly used where low power dissipation and long battery life are required, and in stand-alone or remote-area power systems – those that are typically off-grid. Their inclusion within the airport infrastructure will, therefore, have both energy consumption and environmental implications in one of the most energy-intense world regions.

The Sustainable City in Dubailand

Developer: Diamond Developers

Country: United Arab Emirates

Status: Design/Construction

Cost: USD 299 million

With an estimated 500 homes, mixed-use areas containing retail and office space, a 600-capacity learning institute, planetarium, 400-place primary school, country club, equestrian and sports centre, and an eco-resort with around 150 rooms split, The Sustainable City has been dubbed the first net-zero city in Dubai. It is also considered to be a first of its kind by Diamond Developers, and is expected to exceed existing international sustainability standards, with 53% reserved for green spaces.

The City is being shaped with the support and the direct supervision of the Government of Dubai Land Department, with the objective of creating an international model of sustainable living, work education and entertainment. It will integrate urban agriculture to locally produce organic food and use electric powered sustainable transportation systems to move people around the city. Plus, it will produce much of its own electric power with on-site photovoltaic generation.

W Resort Hotel at Shatti al Qurum (Phase 1)

Developer: Omran

Country: Oman

Status: Under construction

Cost: USD 232 million

The W Resort is a five-star, 287-room hotel set in the heart the upscale Shatti Al Qurum district in the Omani capital of Muscat. The hotel’s luxurious facilities and prime location, adjacent to the Royal Opera House, together with an iconic and contemporary design are expected to make the hotel one of Oman’s most sought-after destinations. In addition to a prime location, the designs submitted by developer Omran also include LEED Gold accreditation.


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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