Sustainability has gradually entered the collective psyche of the regional HVAC industry players. Driven by more stringent energy-efficiency regulations and stricter requirements from consumers, manufacturers, designers and contractors are innovating with products and methods to fulfil the increasingly discerning and stringent demands of their clients. Technologies on offer are now made with cutting-edge features and state-of-the-art designs, while construction techniques are updated to reflect the best practices applied to some of the most iconic structures in the world.
However, at the 2nd Annual Middle East Indoor Environmental Quality Conference, produced by CPI Industry, the publishers of Climate Control Middle East, in early May in Dubai, a crucial industry concern surfaced. Henning M Bloech, General Manager, Building Performance Programmes, UL Environment, Underwriter’s Laboratories, voiced it when he said that when a project was met with several constraints, like budget, time or lack of knowledge, Indoor Air Quality (IAQ)-related features were typically engineered out. He observed that IAQ commissioning, pressure-testing and contaminant-testing were not really done. “Most of the standards,” said Bloech, “focus on the energy part and are almost rudimentary on IAQ. As there are insufficient requirements, IAQ is not a must have.”
Bloech advocated that there was a need to strike a balance between energy-related features and the ones that concerned IAQ. “People are most exposed to pollutants by the air that they breathe,” he said, adding that remediation, on an average, was 100 times more costly than a preventive maintenance programme. “Moulds, for instance,” he said, “could be easily prevented by checking the humidity and moisture levels in buildings.”
In order that IEQ issues attained the equality in attention and action, Bloech made several suggestions:
- As buildings are made with tighter envelopes, engineers have to make sure that there is enough delivered fresh air to the buildings to reduce the pollutants.
- One has to pay attention to the materials and pollutant sources that one brings inside a building.
- The concentration of pollutants in a building rises when ventilation is brought down.
- The key is proactive management and preventive maintenance strategies.
Bloech also emphasised that when it came to the issue of IAQ, there was no room for amateurs. “It is very important,” he said, “to have a qualification and accreditation scheme for IEQ-related professionals.” He said that with the right knowledge and training, construction professionals would be able to design and construct the building right. “It is also important to assess the building and collect as much data as you can, say, in terms of moisture mapping, moulds and CO2, among others,” he added.
In conclusion, he reiterated that training building operations personnel on moisture and IAQ management was of utmost importance. “There are issues that could be addressed early without the need for so much money,” he stressed. “Prevention is much cheaper than remediation.”
As part of the second and concluding section of our comprehensive report, we bring you the highlights of Day 2 of the conference.
The first panel discussion for Day 2 revolved around the topic of IEQ in commercial buildings. The panellists comprised:
- Abdulhadi Alalyak, Vice President, Asset Management & Corporate Administration, du and Member of the Board of the Middle East Facilities Management Association
- Robert Boldi, Associate Professor at Zayed University
- Abdullah Gallioun, MEP Project Engineer, IFA Hotels and Resorts
- Annelies Hodge, Senior Manager for CSR and Internal Communications at the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry
- Ashroff Shakoor, Director of Engineering at the Grand Hyatt Dubai
The members of the panel deliberated on the tangible benefits of good IEQ in commercial buildings resulting from key HVAC initiatives in new constructions and retrofit efforts in existing facilities.
The second panel discussion on Day 2 zeroed in on key IEQ expectations of the medical profession and the technical personnel at hospitals and other healthcare facilities in the GCC. Highlights . . .
Iqtedar Ali Bangash, Director, Facilities Management Support Services, Canadian Specialist Hospital: As regards the operation theatre, we have to maintain the quality of material used, up to the wheels of the trolley, the bed, the lights…. We have to be very conscious about them.
For the recovery area, the temperature set point is dependent on what the surgeon and the anaesthetist recommend. We must remember that hospitals are designed for the patient and not for the doctors.
Michael Hoy MBIFM, Facilities Management Consultant: There is a lot of detail that goes in the design of hospitals. The HTM standard deals with the design, build and installation and the operation of the building. Although HVAC systems have been commissioned, one failure that could happen is in the installation of HEPA filters in operating theatres, resulting in a huge air pressure drop. This could result in a lot of delay and a lot of costs to mitigate. Our number one priority in hospitals is patient safety, and we cannot run an operating theatre that doesn’t run properly.
Dr M Ramaswamy, Technical Expert – Royal Estates, Sultanate of Oman, former Hospital Chief Engineer, Department of Engineering, Rustaq Hospital, Oman: The engineering department is always the odd man out in hospitals. There is a concept that hospitals are only for doctors and nurses and patients…. Doctors and nurses are not from an engineering background and, often-times, they don’t understand the engineering science. Doctors and nurses do not understand pressure levels, and other concepts. We arrange seminars and trainings to make doctors and nurses understand the concepts of engineering science in pedestrian terms. After the discussion, the next day, I could already see changes…. An infection control committee is also very crucial in a hospital.
ICUs are more critical areas than the operation theatres. From the design stage of the hospital, it is advisable for the contractors to follow the design standards…. Ultimately, a hospital has a different set of requirements compared to other types of buildings, in terms of cleanliness, temperature and acoustics, among others.
Dr Iyad Al Attar, International Air Filtration Consultant: Usually, the AHU may stay the same, but the filtration system is upgraded. What does that mean to your AHU? You cannot install higher levels of a HEPA filter without adjusting the fans of the AHU.
Another point is to make sure of the exhaust air ….
We have to transfer the purchasing of filters from the purchasing department to the engineering department.