For several years now, the pages of Climate Control Middle East have resonated with calls for visiting the issue of minimum number of fresh air changes an hour. Those that wish to place health above every other consideration have strongly supported the move, but building managers have largely said it is not even a subject for discussion, given the energy-related implications. The rigidity – hardly surprising in a largely business-as-usual mindset – is unsettling, even dispiriting, but are we at least taking the effort to check if we are achieving ventilation where it is intended to be delivered? Chuck Gulledge III, ASHRAE President, in a relatively recent interview to Climate Control Middle East, spoke of “getting to the breathing zone of people”.
Gulledge III’s words possibly allude to two or three sub-issues, one of them being leakage of ducting systems, which is – or at least ought to be – a major area of concern in the GCC region. In a feature article that appeared in a 2015 issue of Climate Control Middle East, one of the sources interviewed spoke of how faulty HVAC ductwork resulted in approximately 40% energy loss in buildings in Dubai. Atam Hayat of Leminar, speaking to the magazine in March 2021, put the energy loss at around 20%. The percentage may vary, but there is no denying the fact that the energy loss translates to substantial costs for the building owner.
Hayat is referencing the present. In other words, in 2021, buildings continue to leak conditioned air. This despite the availability of sophisticated air leakage testing devices and strategies. Some may argue that to fix leaky ducts would not fall under the category, ‘low-hanging fruit’, especially in fiscally difficult times, as now, but it would be a worthy investment, given the potential for substantially lowering the total cost of ownership (TCO).
Equally important, sorting out the leaks would lower energy consumption, especially at a time when the UAE has signed a set of new Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), in line with the Paris Agreement, as a commitment to lower its emissions. Being able to support the UAE, and other countries, in meeting emission goals would be a collateral benefit of working towards a lower TCO.