What according to you is the right approach to building tracing for better IAQ?
Working with well-educated organisations and having advisory bodies to support would be at the base of our approach.
What would it take to undertake a building tracing programme in the GCC region?
Ensuring access from the owners to buildings to conduct an inventory check will be key to undertaking a building tracing programme in the GCC region. This would ideally be done in close coordination with the government as a public-private collaboration.
What would it cost to audit the buildings? What would it cost to implement changes in the buildings?
This is very hard to say, as the cost of implementation depends on many different factors, including the size of the building and the technology that is used for ventilation – complex or simple. It may also require a change in the HVAC installation, for example the amount of fresh air that enters the building.
Would governments in the GCC region view building tracing as part of an important strategy to ensure a region-wide future-proofing from future pandemics? And while at it, what can be done to improve buildings, as such (collateral benefits) – acoustics, thermal comfort, etc.? How can we quantify the benefits to justify costs?
We definitely believe that building tracing could form part of a wider regional strategy to future-proof cities from pandemics. There is a lot that can be done to improve buildings, ranging from thermal comfort to air quality, and form insulation to energy efficiency. Many of these improvements, and their measures, run via the energy bill, whilst improvements, such as comfort, could prove their return in investment via fewer complaints and the related cost in resolving these issues.
Would the implementation of Building Tracing mean higher electricity costs?
Not necessarily. The implementation of Building Tracing doesn’t have to mean higher energy bills. There are lots of technologies available, including heat recovery solutions. There are also software-based solutions that deliver optimised comfort, reduced energy bills and a lower carbon footprint. It is possible to deploy an intelligent layer of cloud-based software that sits on top of your existing building management system. Using digital twin and AI technology, it can predict the energy needed to reach your desired climate conditions. To do that, it takes data from a range of sources, including weather forecast, thermal inertia and storage, building usage, sustainable energy. And it also takes flexible prices into account. This saves money and energy and reduces CO2.
Can passive cooling and ventilation solutions, along with renewable energy, help in lowering energy costs?
Passive cooling and ventilations solutions along with renewable energy could certainly help in reducing energy costs.
Would the push have to come from the government to adopt building tracing and implementation of IAQ measures?
When a certain standard is not widely adopted in the market and not yet seen as a common client requirement, then building standards imposed by the government (Indoor Air Quality) or incentives schemes organised by the government (Building Tracing) could be the key to speed up a broader uptake. Otherwise, it may take much longer for clients to ask for and be prepared to pay for better standards.”
Could the government give grants to those that implement passive solutions and renewable energy in buildings? Has anything of this sort been tried out so far in the region? Rooftop solar, does that come close enough?
Implementing ‘passive solutions in buildings’ in the GCC region, such as natural ventilation, may be difficult due to the high ambient temperatures. Better insulation, including better insulated windows and better use of daylight, should be possible to adopt in the construction phase. Government standards and incentives could help accelerate this.
Could the Real Estate Regulatory Authority (RERA), in Dubai, establish a system of classification of buildings based on their healthiness? Would that attract tenants and, in the process, help them make informed choices to reject those buildings that are not healthy? Or, would it be a case of people not caring for such aspects, once the threat of the virus is behind us?
One could question if promoting IAQ as an answer to COVID may still be relevant when the pandemic is behind us. A well-ventilated workplace is quite easy to achieve and the technology to do so is available.