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The totality of it all

Cost-centric thinking has pushed the market to opt for the lowest-priced component at every turn. However, vendors are advocating that pumps need to be treated as part of a holistic solution and, hence, ought to be singly sourced to ensure all the parts of the system are working in harmony…

| | Nov 18, 2019 | 11:45 am
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Ronak Monga

From fire pumps that provide water to sprinklers and fire hoses to chilled water pumps that contribute to indoor climate, and to booster pumps that ensure stable water pressure, pumps are vital not only for the successful performance of buildings but also for the health and wellbeing of inhabitants, says Ronak Monga, Segment Development Manager for Building Services, Grundfos Gulf, Levant & Pakistan. “For this comfort to be created, many different systems have to work together, and pumps are a critical part of most of those systems,” he says.

Charles Blaschke, CEO, Taka Solutions, adds that pumps are especially critical in the UAE and in the larger Middle East context, considering that buildings in the region are reliant on air conditioning. “It’s this critical component that makes the buildings’ AC energy systems either work, not work, or be wasted,” he says. Monga adds that the pumps within air conditioning also consume the largest amount of electricity in relation to all other pumps.

As such, Monga says, focusing on getting air conditioning systems right has to be a high-priority aspect for all stakeholders. However, Blaschke points out that currently, customers do not have a clear understanding of where they can generate savings and which equipment would be in the best position to do so. “They look at chillers, lights, BMS and controls, but they leave out this piece that has robust impact, even when quality solutions are readily available,” he says. “In general, pumps consume 10% of the world’s electricity consumption. Building owners look at other components, and, yes, maybe pumps save only five per cent of a building’s energy, but that doesn’t mean there is not good saving potential.”

THE VALUE OF A HOLISTIC APPROACH

Charles Blaschke

Monga says that the first step to realising the savings potential that pumps have to offer is by addressing it in a holistic manner. “A pumping system is not just a pump,” he says. “It has sensors, it has controls, it has intelligence, it has communication, and it is linked with equipment before and after the pump, where it’s installed. Upstream equipment and downstream equipment are as critical to a pump’s operation as the pump itself.” Commenting on the buying process in the market, Monga says that in many projects, the pumps, sensors, controls and the variable-frequency drives are typically sourced from different companies. “Those four different components need to work together to produce perfect pumping, but since they are made by four different organisations, they now have to be made to work together rather than being designed to work together,” Monga says. “If we just focus on pumps and not on the overall system we would be doing it an injustice. I could use an engine from one car and put it in another, but it would not be a perfect solution compared to a car given by the same manufacturer.”

This leads to many issues, which Monga says, can be avoided if clients and contractors go for ‘single source responsibility’, which means taking into consideration the lifecycle cost of the pumping system. In every project, he explains, there are three main upfront costs that must be looked at: purchase price, installation cost and commissioning cost. “We are, quite often, basing purchase decisions on the initial purchase cost, but there needs to be an increased focus on the real costs of commissioning, which will go into making the four systems work together,” he says. “We also need to consider the cost of maintenance. Should anything go wrong in the system, the client is not sure who they need to approach. They can’t identify what exactly is not working perfectly, which is the cause of this inefficiency.”

Monga says having such a holistic approach is a win for all stakeholders involved. “For the client, it is peace of mind knowing they have a system from one single manufacturer, and it will be the manufacturer’s responsibility to execute, install, commission and deliver a perfectly operating system,” he says. “For the contractor, it’s another win, as they don’t have the headache of chasing four different manufacturers to procure equipment, because then they have to make four negotiations in parallel, and they have to make sure they can be integrated, and this compatibility is not assured. The result is an inefficient and not properly functioning system.”

Fouad Ahmed

Fouad Ahmed, Regional Marketing Manager, Middle East and North Africa, Wilo Middle East, believes stakeholders are being aware of the benefit of dealing with one pump manufacturer from A to Z, and that this has been a preference from customers, including authorities, owing to the impact on operation, maintenance, commissioning, overhauling and energy efficiency, making it more cost-effective in the long run. However, he says, this is the right approach, provided the supplier can fulfill all the technical requirements and that it is important for end users to be discerning when it comes to the supplier of choice to ensure the manufacturer actually has the resources, experience and knowledge to provide what is needed. “End- users they trust a lot in the complete cycle,” he says, “If you have it as a manufacturer, it is not just about supplying the pump and the product. It’s about saying, ‘I take the responsibility from day one until you need me.’ It is important they trust the manufacturer that can give full cycle of operation from design stage to aftersales for long years with spare parts and servicing. It’s a matter of reliability and confidence.”

Blaschke stresses that such an integrated approach is paramount. “That’s what separates the men from the boys and the good companies from the bad companies,” he says, “Anyone can sell you a service and either not take care of the product. They need to stand behind it.” He adds that half the problems relating to energy, comfort and compliance can be attributed to the systems that have been installed, which the FM doesn’t know how to run or don’t have the budget to maintain. “If you have an OEM expert that can maintain and that you can turn to, you will see a vast improvement,” he says.

Monga emphasises that while there is still scope for improvement in how the industry is specifying and constructing AC pumping systems today, ESCOs do a fantastic job in helping people pinpoint and understand building energy consumption by focusing on high-consuming areas. “When you speak with ESCOs and facility companies, they will confirm that efficiency, to a major extent, is derived from better controls and more intelligent integration of systems, and that is why if we already know this, this is the way we need to fix inefficiencies. We must do everything possible to adopt this in ongoing and future construction.”

A LONG-TERM VIEW

Blaschke says Taka Solutions is in a unique position to understand the value of a holistic approach, in view of the company’s role as a financier, designer, contractor and operator, and in managing maintenance and energy performance, which gives the company a lifecycle perspective, underpinning the importance of having reliable OEM partners. “We want equipment for the life of the contract, which is typically 10 years long,” he says. “We have to choose quality OEM and equipment. We can’t buy the cheap stuff, and we can’t buy stuff where the suppliers and traders will run away and won’t be here in five years, because if they fail, we fail. If you are a contractor, you can run away. If you are an energy-saving company, even if you do a guaranteed savings model, the customer paid for and owns the equipment, so there is no incentive to have a good-quality product. But as we finance it, we own it, and we repair it for the life of the contract. If we put low- quality pumps and chillers and they all fail, we have to buy new ones. Our capex is doubled, and it’s not worth it to save 10%on the equipment and not to mention, having an unhappy customer.”

However, when it comes to promoting best practices related to design and equipment choice, Blaschke says that at the end of the day, it all boils down to the owners and developers of the building. “For new construction or refurbishments, they need to be educated,” he says. “They need to understand, and no matter who, the designer, the contractor or ESCO, they need to know and make the right choices.” Addressing these basic elements, he says, is what will truly move the needle when it comes to improving building performance. “People talk about IoT, AI, the latest technology and BMS,” he says. “Pragmatically, it doesn’t work, because people have a low- technology building they can’t maintain or operate. Why have an additional layer of complexity, if it won’t have a benefit or impact? Buildings here are falling apart. They need to be fixed holistically and fundamentally, before looking at anything advanced.”

Blaschke says that if any building in the UAE installs high-quality pumps that are designed, analysed and operated right, taking into account installation and air conditioning requirements, the UAE could save five per cent of the overall energy from the building stock. He is quick to add that this is only a conservative estimate. “It would also improve the quality of the overall building, fix delta T, and improve reliability and cooling and comfort of the building, all by changing this relatively small equipment,” he says. “While pumps are small, they have tremendous impact on the grand scheme and on other valuable assets, and now is the time for contractors and ESCOs to prioritise them.” Blaschke says the impact on overarching sustainability targets must not be taken for granted. “If everyone in the world moves to highly energy-efficient pumps, they can save 3% of the world’s energy,” he says, emphasising that the simple act of switching pumps could play a great and positive role in tackling the global challenge of climate change.

 

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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