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A leaky ductwork is ‘an evil not seen’

Industry experts discuss the factors contributing to leaky ductwork in buildings

| | Aug 11, 2016 | 7:07 pm
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Dubai, UAE: A leaky ductwork is “silent” and “invisible”: This is how Noor Eldin Mohammed Al Bargouthi, Senior Mechanical Engineer at the Building Department of Dubai Municipality, describes the problem. Kiro Naumov, Managing Director of Firestop Middle East, goes a step further and describes the air leakages in ducts as “an evil not seen”. Even as billions of dollars are lost each year due faulty ductworks in buildings, the issue remains unaddressed. Experts share their views…

Al Bargouthi attributes the reasons behind faulty ductwork to inexperienced labour and poor installation practices, a view shared by Hassan Younes, Technical Director and Partner at Griffin Consultants and Vice Chair of the ASHRAE Falcon Chapter Grassroots Government Affairs and Chapter Technology Transfer Committee. Younes reveals that generally, duct leakages occur on transverse joints, longitudinal seams and duct penetrations.

Amrit Saxena, Business Development Director of Macsil General Trading Company, explains that in the Middle East region, a lot of attention is provided to aesthetics that is visible to the public eye rather than to something that remains hidden within a false ceiling. “Because of this reason,” he says, “many MEP contractors and duct fabricators can be seen cutting major corners, such as using only a small percentage of the recommended amount of duct sealant or, in some projects, not using any at all. This type of practice – combined with the use of poor quality materials, limited information availability and unwillingness of consultants to revise specifications written at least five to 10 years back – result in the current situation we have.”

Younes cites poor facilities management (FM) as another contributor to the problem. He says, “In some cases, we have observed unqualified maintenance personnel using ducts as walkways, leaving testing holes and smoke dampers open and not checking holes that have developed due to rust.” He also mentions that lack of competent maintenance personnel adds to the existing problem.

Disclosing another issue, Younes says that lack of duct-leakage-testing requirements poses a challenge. “From the resistance we face from contractors when we request air-leak testing, I can conclude that not a lot of consultants or projects require that it be carried out,” he says.

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