In terms of projects, how vibrant and promising is the building-retrofit market, in view of the positive thrust being given by different government agencies like the UAE Ministry of Infrastructure Development, Dubai Supreme Council of Energy, DEWA and Dubai Municipality?
The region’s past three decades have witnessed continuous growth in the building sector, and the market is probably at its second wave of retrofits. The first wave was triggered by unsatisfied users, while the second seems to be supported by public agencies interested in using proven new technologies to reduce the environmental impact of the building sector.
In your estimation, what is the size of the retrofit market in the UAE and the rest of the GCC region?
The fraction of products sold into the retrofit market, as a percentage of the total market, has been gradually but constantly increasing. The retrofit market is more visible through the service channels and includes installation services, which make it difficult to estimate accurately.
We hope some of the newly established green funds and Esco project financing will give the private building owner the opportunity to finance his retrofit project
What are the opportunities for the VRF industry to be part of the retrofit initiative in the region? Is the VRF technology tailor-made for retrofit projects, considering, for example, the minimum period of disruption to the operation of Existing Buildings? As opposed to retrofitting a building with, say, ducted splits, which would require more downtime, would the reduction in the number of units (outdoor) and the simplicity in installing pipes offer a shorter downtime, in the case of VRF technology?
All the above-mentioned are merits of VRF systems, which were not available on the local market until recently. The opportunity for using VRF systems in building retrofits depends on the problem we are going to solve or the cost that we want to reduce or the performance that we want to improve. In addition to the above-mentioned features, VRF systems use around 30% less energy, thanks to the use of inverter technology, while keeping a very close control on the set-point temperature.
Does the modular nature of VRF technology offer flexibility to owners of buildings undergoing retrofitting to accurately match the load profile, and overall give them better demand management?
True, the flexibility is also powerful in terms of separate billing possibilities, for the building owner to avoid paying one full bill, then divide it fairly among his tenants.
Does the modular nature also work to the advantage of the owners in terms of cost of the project, especially considering that banking finance for private-sector retrofit projects seems hard to secure?
We hope some of the newly established green funds and Esco project financing will give the private building owner the opportunity to finance his retrofit project.
Would you like to add anything else in terms of VRF technology vis-à-vis the region?
The VRF system is a building solution to problems usually encountered in design or in building retrofits. However, the energy-efficiency benefit is mainly derived from using compressor inverter technology that is used more and more in ducted or non-ducted split systems. The Middle East is one of the few regions in the world that has not yet embraced the inverter technology in its DX products, and we believe that is the next step to take towards building a sustainable future in the region.
(The writer is the Editor of Climate Control Middle East.)