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Deciphering the dynamics

Industry representatives suggest that the upcoming World Expo 2020 and the need for more energy transfer stations have led to a steady rise in demand for valves

| | Jul 10, 2019 | 8:44 pm
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Ajith Abraham

The valves sub-industry in the UAE is estimated at USD 25 million, says Ajith Abraham, Assistant General Manager, Building Service Products, Leminar Air Conditioning. He adds that the demand for valves in the country is driven by a few factors, one being the speed at which projects are taken up. “Yes, the World Expo 2020 does have a role to play in the rise in demand for valves, but in addition to the Expo, there are a lot of other projects underway across the UAE,” he says. “We are supplying valves and other products to the World Expo 2020 project; however, from a sales point of view, the overall business has seen a rise in demand by only 5-7%. The numbers are not as much as we anticipated.”

Pointing to the health and the stability of the economy as another crucial factor influencing the rise and fall in demand for the valves sub- industry, Colin Bridges, Business Development Director, Belimo Automation, says the stability of an economy and the need to renew ageing systems always leads to the demand for inward investment. “And we see this trend in the UAE and in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, particularly at this time,” he adds.

Colin Bridges

Abraham asserts that the overall market for valves has definitely increased as compared to the past two years. “With the increasing number of projects in the region, we see that valves today are being replaced by Pressure Independent Control Valves (PICV),” he adds. Valves perform as an integrated system with other components, says Abraham, and understanding the sub-industry can often be a complex task. “In addition to the valve itself, you have system integrators, which give you the floor rate,” he says. And in addition to the increased use of PICV in the market, there seems to be another trend. Abraham points to the increasing demand for energy transfer stations (ETSes). These rooms, he says, function like District Cooling stations, and we are seeing a rise in demand for such stations in certain areas and sectors across the UAE. “The increasing need for ETS rooms has led to the need for valves as components that are used in these systems,” he says.

Another major driver and influencer of the valves sub-industry in the UAE is cost, Bridges says. He says that every customer tends to ask the same logical question before investing in any technology: ‘How much money will I save?’ For a different and an improved outcome, he says, we must ask building designers, owners and stakeholders to actually do something that is different in order to achieve a different outcome and a high efficiency. “All buildings are different, and so it is extremely difficult to accurately predict the cost-benefit precisely,” he adds. Elaborating, Bridges says that it

is extremely frustrating, when customers say that they would love to use new technology and an energy-saving product, but they can’t because of constraints with regard to their budget. And yet, he says, the customer expects a better and improved outcome with a low-cost solution. “Lifecycle costs need to be treated with more seriousness, especially when planning a new-build and also while retrofitting a system that performs badly,” he says. Abraham echoes Bridges, when he asserts that the challenge today with having the technology is whether the client is willing to invest. “It is a cost concern,” he says. Adding, Bridges says that in such a situation, as a manufacturer, Belimo considers its role as explaining the real value of its products, and it ensures that the benefits are fully understood. “If we are talking to a budget-conscious buyer, who seems to be focused only on achieving a cost reduction, then we are in the wrong room,” he says.

Highlighting another development with regard to innovation and technology, Abraham says that today the way in which valves are designed exteriorly has undergone change. “Today, space is another constraint,” he says, “and there is a demand for compact valves that are in the shape of a diaphragm. The shape helps give the flow rate reading while the valve is accommodated in a small space.” Also, Abraham says that today, the materials being used during the manufacturing process of valves is changing. “Previously, manufacturers used only brass, but today, they use DZR brass, which is basically a zinc coating, an alloy that prevents corrosion and has a high resistance to thermal differences,” he says. Adding, Bridges says that the industry is seeing a slow yet a steady start of the adoption of new data-driven technologies. “A wide use of Cloud and IoT devices are seeping into building HVAC systems and even into the automated control over valves,” he adds. As the drive for energy savings increases, so does the interest and the subsequent use of technology, Bridges says. Today, he says, technology and IoT in the valves sub-industry is gaining momentum, and valves are being controlled via a WiFi network, so that you know where the cooling is coming from.


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