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Energy efficiency and IEQ: Is there a balance yet?

Stakeholders weigh in on the level of investment being placed on the two

| | Sep 26, 2018 | 9:00 am
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Dubai, UAE, 26 September 2018: There has been growing awareness of, and appreciation for, indoor environmental quality (IEQ) and its impact on the well-being and productivity of inhabitants of buildings. Has this awareness translated to tangible demands and requirements in new and existing buildings, though? Or, is energy efficiency still the main driving force for specifications and design parameters?

Adnan Sharafi, Executive Director, Gerab Energy Systems, stressed that energy efficiency and IEQ are linked, and that while there has been a move towards improving IEQ, there is a massive scope for improvement. “I think there are certain hygiene requirements you must have, and then there are all these optional elements that will increase productivity, but there is a cost, as well,” he said. “At the end of the day, comfort and productivity go hand in hand. There is a tradeoff somewhere. It’s like Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. There are basic needs you have to have – security, food and water. And then, you go for the higher-order ones. You can’t go for the higher-order ones without the basics, and energy efficiency is one of the basic requirements.”

Saad Ali, General Manager – Middle East and Africa, SPX Cooling Technologies, said that the level of investment ultimately depends on the confidence and capability of a particular company. “If the business is on a strong financial footing, it can address the bigger picture and plan for the service life of the systems,” he said. “If you look at Silicon Valley, you see companies that have made significant progress in terms of financials, stability and intelligence. Here, the mentality is different; you talk about protecting employees and the environment, because you know the end result will be productivity, but on the other side, in less-affluent areas, it’s different – it’s all about opex: How much is it going to cost now?” Ali said that it comes down to education and financial capability. “If a business is breaking even,” he said, “then meeting salaries may be the immediate priority, and selecting the most energy-efficient and environmentally responsible cooling system won’t be as important.”

Adding to this, Sharafi said that the way people use buildings is changing. “You have offices here, and they may be space-efficient, but it’s not really efficient in terms of productivity, it may not be a good set-up.” Providing other examples, he pointed to VOCs from paint, circulation of air, noise pollution and even lighting. Considering such aspects in designing, and redesigning a space, he said, is vital and can make a huge difference in productivity, especially in schools. Sharafi stressed that there are more than enough products in the market that could help in improving IEQ, without sacrificing energy efficiency, but what is missing is the adoption of these technologies. He advocates greater awareness, especially from those involved in retrofit projects, on available technologies, in order to maximise its benefit for a building and its inhabitants.

 

Hannah Jo Uy is Assistant Editor at Climate Control Middle East magazine. She may be contacted at hannah@cpi-industry.com


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