According to a research report on the air treatment market by the Exactitude Consultancy, the size of the global air treatment market will increase from USD 20.42 billion in 2022 to USD 41.16 billion by 2029, resulting in a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 8.1% between 2023 and 2029.
As if presenting a microcosm of the global growth, Mattia Nuti, CEO & Founder, Vortex Biotech, says, “Speaking on Saudi Arabia, though it has a population of around 33 million people, and while it is not as advanced as the UAE in terms of Indoor Air Quality (IAQ), increasing attention and investment can be observed in this area in recent years.” He points out to how since 2021-22, there has been an increase in awareness and demand for air quality monitoring and treatment solutions in the UAE, which is the most advanced country in the GCC region. Interestingly, he says, other countries in the region, which are not as aware of the issue as the UAE – namely, Kuwait, Qatar and Saudi Arabia – are also following suit. This trend, he adds, also suggests that the market for air quality solutions and air treatment equipment would experience growth in the region.
Shubhendu Srivastava, Executive Vice President, Desiccant Rotors International (DRI), shares a similar perspective on the market size. He notes that the air treatment market in the UAE and Saudi Arabia continues to evolve rapidly as people realise the benefits of fresh air infusion, IEQ and energy efficiency. DRI, he says, has supplied to many prestigious projects in the region, notable among which are the Dubai Expo project and the Museum of the future, in the UAE. In Saudi Arabia, he says, the company has growth plans in place and has supplied to the upcoming Red Sea project, among others. “Our applications are focused on fresh air treatment and energy recovery and help commercial installations recover a huge amount of savings in energy costs,” he says. “Our recent offerings in Indirect Direct Evaporative Cooling (IDEC) systems are a notable game changer and offer a drastic reduction in operational costs (80%) compared to conventional air conditioning. The IDEC product provides cooling solutions for large spaces in warm and tropical weather conditions.”
Samiullah Khan, CEO, Saif Air Technologies, weighing in on the trend, says that in the post-pandemic era, there is a priority to ensure that the air we breathe is free from viruses. However, informed and knowledgeable clients demand reductions in CO2 and VOC levels, in addition to PM2.5 and PM10, he points out. “To achieve this, we use an air-purification system, called Airocide, a bio-conversion chamber developed by NASA that eliminates all pathogens and VOCs,” he says. “Unlike filter-based systems, Airocide does not require filters and is commercially available. Additionally, we use a technology called HEECO2R to produce 0 ppm CO2 air in centrally cooled buildings. This technology uses pressure swing adsorption to remove CO2, VOCs and excessive humidity from the air.” Khan adds that HEECO2R, which is the only air treatment system designed and developed entirely in the UAE, was created to meet the GCC region’s environmental standards.
Nuti, for his part, highlights how Vortex Biotech has recently implemented a significant project with its VLED technology in the region. The technology, he says, utilises UV-C light to disinfect indoor air within HVAC systems, effectively eliminating bacteria, viruses and mould. “By ensuring constant disinfection, VLED creates a healthy and safe indoor environment, combating poor air quality caused by circulating germs,” Nuti says. “Patients can benefit from this technology, as it helps prevent the spread of infectious diseases in enclosed spaces.”
While elaborating on the market preferences, Nuti notes that Vortex Biotech has supplied the VLED to many large projects – to hospitals and buildings – in the UAE and Saudi Arabia in a short span of time. Vortex Biotech is a startup founded in 2021, he says, adding that the company had already received pre-orders worth USD 700,000 by December 2022. “We have started installing the device since late February, this year, and are currently studying 12 hospitals for deployment,” he adds.
Khan notes that the air treatment market has grown substantially, especially in the context of the top three sectors of health care, hospitality and education. “We have installed our equipment in the Hotel Treppan – a four-star hotel – resulting in improved air quality and a 30% reduction in electricity bills,” he says. “We partner with the Emirates Green Building Council to study and improve air quality in approximately 30 national schools. We are also working with the Environment Center for Arab Towns (ECAT) on a project focused on air quality and sustainability.”
Srivastava says that such is the increase in awareness on IAQ that clients request units equipped with necessary sensors and easy integration with Building Management Systems (BMS) and other software. Srivastava highlights the growing importance of IoT in current and future equipment. Adding to what Srivastava said, Nuti says that IEQ needs to be looked at from the perspectives of monitoring and control. Many companies, he says, provide sensors for air quality monitoring, but there is a limitation on the parameters that can be checked, namely real-time monitoring of viruses, bacteria and mould. “Currently, there is no technology available to tackle this issue,” he says. “On the controls side, the market offers various air filtration and disinfection technologies, but most have side-effects or are ineffective. UVC light technology is an effective option, but it also has side effects on humans and is less effective in air-handling units due to high airspeed.”
Srivastava says DRI is continuously evolving its product offerings to meet customer demands, in the wake of increase in awareness about IAQ. “We offer complete solutions for ventilation, including Treated Fresh Air Units and Energy Recovery Ventilators, which help maintain good IAQ while providing energy savings in a single unit,” he says.
Nuti has a different opinion on awareness for better IAQ in the post-pandemic phase. He notes that the heightened awareness was due to the pandemic, but in early 2022, after the threat of the virus subsided, people are no longer concerned about COVID and have become less focused on IAQ. “However, it is important to note that IAQ is still crucial, with approximately seven million deaths attributed to it (poor IAQ) each year,” he says. “As for Vortex Biotech, we are constantly trying to enhance our product offerings to provide a complete solution for ventilation, maintaining good indoor air quality, and energy savings in a single unit.”
Nuti says that when it comes to air treatment, the GCC region market is primarily focused on cost. “One of the reasons could be that the market is dominated by people who come to the region to make money in a brief period and then leave,” he says. “Since there is no social security, the market is tailored to meet the needs of this group. Therefore, products with features other than cost are not a priority. The market is fast paced, but little emphasis is on other costs, such as quality.”
Nuti says there is significant demand for low-maintenance technology in the region that is easy to install. “This demand may create an opportunity to add value to existing projects without requiring significant changes to their design,” he says. “The challenge in adding new innovative technology to existing projects is in ensuring compatibility and avoiding disruption. However, there is potential for innovation by developing technologies that add functionality and have multiple applications. This retrofit market presents a promising opportunity for those seeking to capitalise on these needs.”
When it comes to retrofitting, Khan says that at a macro level, HEECO2R replaces the outdated and inefficient FAHU in centrally cooled buildings. Indeed, he is convinced that HEECO2R is the best deep-retrofit solution available in the market today. Using pressure swing adsorption technology, it produces 0 ppm CO2 air and treats the air to remove volatile organic compounds and excessive humidity, he says. The technology meets the three pillars of sustainability: People, planet and profit, he says. Additionally, he says, it is scalable and improves IAQ, eliminates Sick Building Syndrome, reduces the heat island effect and decreases HVAC-related electricity consumption by approximately 40%.