Day 2 of the 8th edition of The Climate Control Conference, held on June 15 and 16 at the Meydan in Dubai, once again saw representatives from government and stakeholders from the construction and HVAC industries engaged in discussions. They deliberated, argued and presented compelling evidence in a bid to identify a roadmap for a cohesive approach to multiple disciplines and activities that typically shape a built-environment. If the discussions of Day 1 had a unique conversation-type format, Day 2 was a further departure from the tried-and-tested approach of conferences, making for a set of riveting discussions. In all, the day saw discussions on the remaining seven sessions of the overall 14, which covered 82 topics. The following are the excerpts, in verbatim format…
Report by Rajiv Pillai | Features Writer
Right from the beginning of Day 2, the moderators – B Surendar, Editorial Director and Associate Publisher of CPI Industry, and Sougata Nandi, Technical Advisor for Sustainable Development at CPI Industry – set the tone for the discussions by further breaking away from the traditional format of conference discussions. They opened the floor to various industry experts and to delegates for a fluid exchange of views and insights spanning such topics as sustainability, regulation, self-regulation, cooling approaches, Indoor Environmental Quality, commissioning and facilities management.
Introductory session with the UAE Ministry of Public Works
Nandi: “In your present capacity as Director of Projects Planning in the Ministry of Public Works, how do you see the government making progress when it comes to sustainable cities?”
Eng Anwaar Al Shimmari, Director – Projects Planning, UAE Ministry of Public Works:
“Sustainability always has a conflict with the economy. You have to jeopardise either sustainability or return on investment (ROI). This is one of the big challenges. People’s understanding of sustainability differs. Also, the level of sustainability that you want to achieve depends on the complexity of the project and the reputation of the project.
“Talking of projects that the Ministry of Public Works is engaged in, we can say that we are already communicating with the Urban Planning Council (UPC) in Abu Dhabi regarding the rating system. For example, the Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed City, in Fujairah, is a community of 1,100 villas for locals. In addition to public services and utilities, it should be rated according to the UPC rating systems. I would say that the housing sector has already achieved a mature understanding of sustainability when it comes to buildings.
“Sustainability has a different dimension. It is not only about the climate, it also includes socio-economic factors, where culture for me is really crucial and must be integrated. My understanding of sustainability today is totally different from what I had in my mind five years ago.
“I like the idea of having such an event, because it enlightens people. It gathers people under one umbrella; and from the government sector, as well, we need to have one umbrella to consolidate all these efforts. For example, UPC, Emirates Green Building, LEED certification systems, etc.
“All countries around are competing towards something, but what sets the UAE apart is that it has considered sustainability as part of its projects.”
SESSION 8: Regulation and self-regulation
Nandi: “James, what impact are you seeing since you were formed and since you started achieving certain regulations in certain areas?”
James Grinnell, Head of Water – Dubai Regulatory and Supervisory Bureau: “The Regulatory and Supervisory Bureau (RSB) was created in 2010, and it became operational in 2011. We still are very much a small entity. Our initial mandate was to regulate Independent Water & Power Production (IWPP) for water and power generation. Essentially in Dubai, the structure of the utility sector is very different from that of Abu Dhabi. In Abu Dhabi, we have a vertically separated sector. And you have an RSB that regulates the IWPPs. In Dubai, DEWA is the sole provider of electricity and water, and we are providing a regulatory framework for the additional generation, as growth continues in Dubai. In addition to IWPPs, we have been asked to expand our duties to other areas. First, in the role of ESCO markets, so the Dubai Supreme Council of Energy has an integrated energy strategy, which aims to diversify the supply of fuels to provide energy. And also to save 30% of demand against Business as Usual by 2030. And that demand saving comes in the form of a DSM (demand-side management) programme. And the RSB is providing the support and delivery that enables the programme. The second component is the retrofit programme, which aims to retrofit 30,000 to 40,000 buildings in Dubai by 2030, and what the RSB has done is that it has looked at the market for retrofits. We looked at all aspects and what we observed is that, at the supply side, there are a few ESCOs that have been operating in Dubai for some time. But they are very limited and they have had limited growth. We worked to understand why that growth hasn’t been forthcoming.”
Nandi: “So, since you were formed, do you have regular interactions with the HVAC industry, where you get feedback from the industry in terms of what types of regulation they would actually recommend or would like to see, so that the industry starts becoming more sustainable?”
Grinnell: “On the supply side, we have launched an accreditation system. We have encouraged ESCOs to come and demonstrate their capabilities. We have also been asked to regulate the District Cooling sector. Over the period of 2013, we engaged key District Cooling providers who cooperatively provided data to us, to inform on the size of the market, the state of the market, etc. From an efficiency side, we engaged with the developers’ points of view, and we have researched the views of customers, as well.
“Throughout 2014, we ran a project to develop a regulatory framework for District Cooling, because one of the things we found over our research in 2013 was that the District Cooling market was a series of small monopolies, and although there are regulations in terms of energy storage and using non-desalinated water, there are no regulations to effectively control the [District Cooling] market.”
Nandi: “Could you brief the audience on the UAE Ministry of Energy’s objective for energy efficiency and its implementation plans?”
Somayyah Abdulla Alyammahi, Senior Green Building Architect, UAE Ministry of Energy: “In 2014, our Ministry had developed a new structure, and we added three new departments – an energy efficiency and conservation department, a regulation and supervision department and a climate change and renewable energy department.
“For regulation, we drafted a federal law on energy and conservation. The law focused on three main sectors: building, industry and transportation. Since we have huge energy consumption in the building sector, we drafted the first phase for buildings, where we focus on all buildings – government to local. This law will help us to encourage or influence the behaviour of people towards energy conservation.”
Surendar: “If you could please share your insights on the importance of self-regulation in this market. We talk about regulation, but how important is self-regulation?”
Sarfraz H Dairkee, Secretary of the Board, Emirates Green Building Council (EGBC): “Regulation only is the tip of the iceberg, while self-regulation is at the bottom. So the tip can only nudge things. Regulation has to come from within. And until and unless an innovative approach has been applied, I think our solutions have to be very different. The root of this is innovation. We have to do a lot of unlearning. Right now, the focus is at the tip of the iceberg, which should not be the case.”
SESSION 9: Cooling approaches
Surendar: “What we are trying to do through this session is to look at cooling approaches from different virtue standpoints: safety, reliability, energy efficiency, cost-effectiveness, resource conservation, being the least polluting, being the least noisy, having the smallest footprint possible, technological flexibility and being reasonably future-safe from an economic perspective. We are going to be looking at various cooling approaches – at District Cooling, at water-cooled systems from a boarder perspective and at air-cooled systems.
“First and foremost, I would like to bring in Eng Redha Salman. He’s the Director of the Sewage Treatment Plant (STP) operations of Dubai Municipality (DM). One of the fundamental requirements, as we all know, is water. The availability of water, when we talk of District Cooling, when we talk of water-cooled systems. Eng Redha, if you could please take us through the efforts that DM is taking to ensure we have enough TSE (treated sewage effluent). What are the efforts you are taking to generate and distribute that TSE? Do we have enough to consider District Cooling as a viable model?”
Eng Redha Salman, Director of STP Department, Dubai Municipality (DM): “We have three networks under us – we have waste water sewage coming in, we have another network for TSE to distribute for landscaping and we have another network for the stormwater.
“Speaking about TSE, last year we had 217 million cubic metres. Only 30 million were surplus, which went to the sea. But the surplus is only during seasons where water is not much in demand. Yes, we do have TSE, but it varies during seasons. These are important issues that one should consider.
“And yes, it [TSE] is cost-effective; its price is 1.3 AED per cubic metre. This is more attractive than the cost of DEWA water. And it is used for several applications. One of them is greenery and landscaping. We have mapped out and found that TSE can be used in 23 different applications. There are only a couple of District Cooling companies that are using TSE. There is no regulation to force the District Cooling company to use TSE water.”
Surendar: “George, do you believe in the present model of District Cooling?”
George Berbari, CEO, DC Pro Engineering: “From 2005 to 2015, the only development that happened in the District Cooling industry was efficiency improvement from the chiller manufacturer. It did not come from the industry. And we stagnated in [District Cooling] technology. Once you stagnate, other technologies will develop. That said, 70% of the market is still air-cooled chillers and ducted splits. District Cooling is using outdated technology and needs to evolve and develop… or die.”
Surendar: “What are the other drawbacks? Ghaleb, you earlier spoke that it takes five litres to produce 1 kW of energy. We are talking of a very important aspect here – the availability of water for District Cooling and, further, the cost of producing that water.”
Nandi: “How would you do District Cooling differently if you were to decide that this is the way to make it more popular, rather than enforcing it through mandate or regulation? How would you do an entire lifecycle cost comparison between District Cooling and a standalone system?”
Ghaleb Abusaa, CEO, en3 Solutions (The Three Factors Company): “There will never be one single solution. There will always be direct expansion systems, small splits, VRVs, air-cooled chillers and central air conditioning, forever. And that will possibly continue to take 70% to 80% of the market. This is because of the class of the people; it’s the nature of the societies. So, when you do a job, do not exclude any possible type of air conditioning, because sometimes what you thought was the worst becomes the best.
“The problem today with District Cooling, when it comes to feasibility, is that the current contract, which I hope RSB will change, does not allow the end-user to reduce his capacity. If you are assigned 1,000 TR (tonnes of refrigeration) capacity, you have to pay a connection fee for 1,000 TR all year. And this is one of the drawbacks. The second problem is a penalty for Low Delta-T Syndrome by some manufacturers.
“Yet another major problem we have with District Cooling is that when we have two or three plants connected to a common network, we don’t have a live monitoring of the network. We only monitor the Energy Transfer Station (ETS) and the District Cooling plant.”
Nandi: “Holistically, how do air-cooled chillers stack up? Energy-efficiency-wise, it might not be as efficient as water-cooled chillers. But is there a case for air-cooled chillers?”
Bharat Asarpota, Maintenance Engineer, Emarat: “It depends on various stakeholders on what they want. You have to take the cost into consideration on whether you are getting it from the grid or District Cooling and you pass on the cost to the tenants or consumers. As developers, the priorities have to be made very clear.
“As far as we are concerned, my corporation, when we developed the land in 1990, Sheikh Zayed Road had the Metropolitan Hotel. The government gave us this land, and there was absolutely no infrastructure. Forget about TSE, there was insufficient water. So we had to go in for air-cooled chillers, and I think a lot of projects are stuck because of that. It’s not easy to retrofit an air-cooled chiller project and go for a water-cooled chiller, instead. It’s just not possible. We actually looked at District Cooling as an alternative, but there was no infrastructure for it.”
Nandi: “In my opinion, there are also District Cooling plants that are standalone – meaning that they serve only one customer. We have Nimal here, who has worked on such projects. One of them was the Wafi Mall, which uses a District Cooling plant and the other was the Hyatt Regency chilled water plant retrofit project. Please share with us very briefly both the projects in terms of what they used to be before and how they were upgraded into the new system. And what specific advantages, in terms of energy savings and cost reduction, were you able to achieve owing to the upgrades?”
Nimal Amukotuwa, Consultant: “Wafi uses a District Cooling plant, and it’s a single user. In Wafi, initially, each building had different HVAC systems. Some were air-cooled and some were water-cooled. At the same time, they were building the pyramid-shaped hotel, Raffles. So, they approached us and said they wanted to go for a standalone plant, which they would use for all their properties, including the hotel. We designed one plant in one of the vacant plant rooms. And gradually disconnected all the systems one by one. The plant had sufficient capacity. The total plant capacity was 14,000 TR, and around 8,000 TR, I believe, were required for the hotel. Only thing I can’t give you is energy savings. But, it was very successful, because their engineers have told us that they are very happy. And that they are saving money.”
“We retrofitted Hyatt Regency along with some apartment blocks. They had old York chillers that were around 20 years old. This was in 2004. I looked at them and said that we have to change the chillers, the cooling towers, the condensate water pumps and the primary chilled water pumps. At the time of proposing, I also suggested we should go for variable-flow primary Chillers. We had two variable-speed chillers and others were fixed speed chillers. We also had a chiller management system, which came from the chiller manufacturer – they were York chillers. Hyatt insisted on York. “The Director of Engineering at Hyatt said that they were saving 32% on energy consumption. And this was all because of variable speed and chiller combination.”
Nandi: “Asim, are you manufacturing variable-speed-drive chillers in this region? What kind of market demand are you seeing for such systems?”
Asim Hashmi, Sales Director (Applied), SKM Air Conditioning: “VFD-drive chillers, right now, are mainly very useful when you are talking about centrifugal capacity chillers. Because when you are talking about a 1,000 TR chiller, VFD drives come in play, and when the chiller goes on part load of 25% to 40%, definitely it gives the advantage. For air-cooled chillers, VFD drives are still not very popular in this part of the world, the reason being that air-cooled chillers are not running on 30-40% load – this is because for most of the buildings, you have a multiple-chiller load. And at every moment of time, you have at least one chiller load in the building.
“So VFD drive is good for centrifugal [chillers]. You get a lot of efficiency advantages. But for air-cooled chillers, I feel VFD drive is not so popular and is not so viable. But still, on a case-to-case basis, you can study and you can design.”
Nandi: “Anbu, as a consultant, what are your views when it comes to chillers?”
Kandasamy Anbalagan, Managing Partner, Proleed Engineering Consultants: “We were wondering why people are not considering ammonia chillers in this part of the world. And as we talk to the manufacturers, they say that authorities may not have any objection to use ammonia chillers for commercial purposes. What are the precautions to be taken to mitigate the risks associated with using ammonia? This is one of the important questions. And the payback period is less than three to four years, depending on the power tariff. And so we are considering that as a serious option, and we are trying to get the approvals from the authorities. Basically, ammonia is considered for industrial application, and it cannot be used in a commercial environment. But in places like Europe, it’s already in use, and they consider ammonia as a safe refrigerant. But you need to take care of a lot more aspects in terms of training the technicians and of how to manage an ammonia leak, if it at all happens.”
Surendar: “George, you are a strong advocate of District Cooling; at the same time, you believe in VRF systems, don’t you?”
Berbari: “The main difficulty with VRF is that you have to measure on the airside of every unit to get the tonne out of the unit. The industry is evolving into variable water flow using the same technology of VRF. With VRW, we are pumping water, not refrigerant, and also chilled water from the VRW is very similar – we only need to add a heat exchanger at the pump, which is available now. You have the ability to measure the tonne-hour by putting a BTU meter on the chilled water. From my perspective, if you cannot measure it, you cannot manage it. And from my experience, it’s impossible to measure the proper efficiency of VRFs.”
Abusaa: “I do not understand why we always compare District Cooling with VRFs. Why are we doing this from a commercial and a technical point of view? VRF is an air-cooled system, and District Cooling is a water-cooled system. District Cooling has no meaning, if there is no diversity in the use. If I have 100 buildings, with all of them being offices working and closing at the same time, and with their heat load being 100,000 TR, I will have to make a District Cooling plant with 100,000 TR capacity. But if there is a diversity, the 100,000 TR goes down to 60,000, and it makes sense. Why, then, do I make a water-cooled District Cooling plant and compare it with individual units of air-cooled VRFs? VRFs can also be water-cooled. The comparison is not just.”
SESSION 10: The air side of things
Surendar: “I would like to start this discussion from an air-filtration point of view. Sure, we need to consider energy efficiency, but there is also the cost of health. That’s very important. That’s what we will be addressing through this particular session. We are going to be looking at air-flow issues and health-related issues throughout this session, and also the next session, where we are going to be looking at broader IEQ issues.”
Nandi: “Are we really monitoring Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) in our buildings?”
Anbalagan: “I don’t think subsequent to the installations, anybody is going back and checking the air quality. Of course, the CO2 sensors are installed, and these are all part of the design, as per the codes requirements, and also, as a good engineering practice. And during the testing and commissioning period, we do check if everything is working as per the design intent. So, to that level, we are ensuring that everything is done properly, and rightly, such that the CO levels and the VOC levels and the performance of the AHUs are all proper. But as a follow-up measure, on whether it is working properly, in quite a few cases, we found that they don’t work over a period of time.”
Hans Reinders, CEO, Oxycom: “In Europe, we went to a school, and the CO2 level was over 5,000 ppm. Ventilation should not be according to ASHRAE standards, in my opinion. That’s nice, but it’s not enough – it’s just a minimum requirement. And minimum comes from the fact that ventilation costs energy. So, somewhere, these standards have been influenced by the old industry.”
Nandi: “Jagath, what are your views on IAQ monitoring?”
Jagath Gunawardena, Manager – Projects and Building Development, Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry: “Our satisfaction survey, at Dubai Chamber of Commerce (DCC), increased from 76% to 92%. We have a system where we periodically check the IAQ in our building every six months. It does not cost you an arm and a leg. We observed some of the formaldehydes from some of the MDF panels. Now, formaldehydes are carcinogenic.
“During a daytime survey for IAQ at the Chamber, we found that various other pollutants went up. We finally figured that it was not the dust or the CO2 but the perfumes the occupants used. Further, there is the Bakhoor, which is perfumed smoke and which was used at the time when a VIP came on a visit. Today, of course, those are slowly discouraged.
“And then, there are the carpets and their cleanliness. Constant testing of IAQ gives us a view of when to check what. A standard building must include in its code a semi-annual testing of IAQ.”
Sanjiv Sachdeva, Managing Director, Gulf Engineering System Solutions (GESS): “When we talk of IAQ measurement in a building today, apart from CO2 sensing, there are IAQ sensors available, which would sense a couple of things together and give you the overall results. These sensors would also check humidity levels, because high humidity means more growth opportunities for micro-organisms and, hence, bad IAQ.
“And when we talk of CO2, we should remember that CO2 itself is not a contaminant, it’s just the absence of oxygen. And increasing fresh air quantities, based on CO2 levels, does not solve the problem, because high fresh air means more humidity. So we have to have good control strategies. The right AHUs could do actual humidity control and not just cooling and condensation.”
Surendar: “Saad, how severe is the issue of sandstorms? As a manufacturer, what are you doing towards addressing the issue?”
Saad Ali, General Manager – Ruskin Titus: “There is a lot of work done to handle sandstorms. Other that concentrating on the AHU side, I think it starts at the façade, which is very important. I think we have to start from the grilles and diffusers. But before that, we have to look at the louvre section, where the fresh air comes in. So there is a lot of work that is happening from the manufacturer’s side and not only from us. As a company, we have been developing sand trap louvres.”
Nandi: “Christopher Rajamani comes from a lab perspective. Chris, could you please give us a brief about the current status of duct cleaning?”
Christopher Rajamani, Technical and Business Development Manager, Al Hoty-Stanger Laboratories: “Healthy indoor air is recognised today as a basic human right. In the last five years, I have seen a revival within the IAQ industry. We have a lot of responsible clients within the industry, such as in schools. Yes, we have done quite a bit of testing for a number of companies. We have a lot of responsible cleaning companies, as well. We find that the quality of indoor air, designed by the consultants, put in by the contractors, monitored by the municipality and the clients before the handover, is quite good. The only areas where we had a problem involved VOCs and formaldehyde. And that’s because the government has not issued strict laws against this.”
SESSION 11: Broader IEQ issues
Surendar: “Hassan, could you please share your views on mould growth?”
Hassan Younes, Technical Director, Griffin Consultants: “The required humidity content in a room is 24 degrees C, and 50% humidity is around nine grams per kilogram. So this is what you are looking for. You need that value. Below 20 degrees C, the relative humidity will go higher. Now, the problem we normally see when we do our audits or design reviews is that, first of all, under external conditions, people are still using the dry bulb and not the wet bulb for fresh air sizing. Instead of using 46 degrees C dry bulb and 29 degrees C wet bulb, people should use 35 degrees C dry bulb and 30 degrees C wet bulb.
“Another issue is that the exhaust fan speed is higher than the fresh air in some of the buildings. Condensation is the main contributor to mould. Whenever there is condensation, there is mould.”
Surendar: “Charles, would you like to add to this?”
Charles Blaschke, General Manager, Taka Solutions: “When we start to operate and save energy in buildings, there is a big conundrum, and that is the balance between IEQ and energy. And I think everyone knows that you either get good energy performance or good IEQ. And to balance the two is very hard. We go into buildings, and there is humidity problem, and we think the building is not sealed. And there are these other problems, such as infiltration and leakage. But, usually, the problem is that the FAHUs are not handling dehumidifying as they are designed to do. Typically, the capacity is there in the system. But for whatever reason – lack of education, maybe – the off-coil temperature is above the 13 degrees that it’s designed to perform. So no building is going to have dehumidification if the FAHU has an off-coil temperature of 13 degrees C.”
Wrapping it up, on three…
SESSION 12: Energy efficiency and low-hanging fruit
SESSION 13: Testing & commissioning
SESSION 14: From thereon – The critical role of FM firms in sustaining IEQ and energy efficiency aspirations
Nandi: “We have three sessions left, but we are going to club them all together. Now that we have covered all aspects and the building is ready for testing and commissioning, what is the first key step the FM companies need to do as priority, from energy efficiency and IEQ points of view?”
Younes: “Before going into FM, as an owner, first you need to set your KPIs. As an owner, you should set your energy targets, your IAQ targets – all these things should be there so that when you get a tender from different FM companies, you can compare and know what a particular FM company is bringing and what another FM company is bringing. Currently, the situation that is played out involves the owner asking FM companies for a general maintenance contract and the lowest bidder getting the project. I mean, if I am an FM company and am bidding for such projects and if this is the way the game is being played, I will just go with the lowest requirements and the lowest bid and get the project. Now, as an FM company as we all know, education and training are very important; getting certification for the employees is very important, as well. I have never seen a well-operated building, except for maybe some that I have visited, and among the main reasons were bad design, bad installation, etc. So FM companies have a lot to do.”
Nandi: “Now there’s a dichotomy there, Hassan, because what essentially happened during my experience as an FM provider, the customers will typically give you a number of how much they are going to pay every year, for a certain scope of work. What the FM companies have learned to do is make a submission, with disclaimers written.
“If I can move on to Jagath, because not only has he already converted a building [Dubai Chamber] into a fantastic building, he is also in the process of building a new project.
“So, do you have plans in place when it comes to the Dubai university project?”
Gunawardena: “We have already started meeting up with FM companies. In Dubai Chamber, we have our own KPIs and our own tenders system. And in the tenders system, we select blue chip FM companies whom we know, who came recommended. We invited 16 FM companies, and we put them in one room. And we told them at the beginning that this is our design and this is what we need. We gave them a design intent on all aspects, not only architectural but also MEP, BMS and operational. We gave them a design target and an operational target.
Nandi: “Essentially, what you are saying is that the whole exercise is a developer-driven process. You don’t need regulation. You don’t need anybody to tell you what to do. You know what you want and you are a well-informed educated developer.”
Gunawardena: “Yes, that is what it is all about.”
Surendar: “What should we do to bring about market transformation? Do we need a carrot-and-stick approach to bringing the building owners to this kind of thinking?
Tharun Thomas, Energy Efficiency Consultant, Smart4Power: “On the process of market transformation, I would say that we have to see how building owners, FM companies, energy management consultants and energy service providers can embrace energy efficiency in buildings. This can only happen if there is a business opportunity behind it, because we believe that facility management and energy management is no longer different. When there is an FM company coming on board, reducing the energy usage within a building should be a responsibility that they have to take up. Now to make it attractive, there should be an incentive wherein if you are able to save the current consumption by 15% or 20%, your sinking fund and service cost per square metre will go down, thus making the property attractive. So, it all has to be linked; it all has to make business sense, financial sense. And then, if the core competency is not available in-house, look into forming alliances.