One of my first assignments as a Consulting Engineer in 1994 was to address the cooling and condensation issues around the Galleria Ice Rink, in Deira, Dubai. It was a combination of ice rink evaporation and the resultant low temperature and high humidity around, compounded by the infiltration in the corridors, resulting in mould and mildew formation.
It was, indeed, interesting to collect data – measuring the column surface temperatures at different heights surrounding the ice rink and recording for detailed analysis. Effectively, the major problem was solved by upgrading the fresh air-handling units (FAHUs) to handle the additional moisture due to ice rink evaporation and keeping the areas surrounding the ice rink under positive pressure – a combination of additional dehumidification and fresh air quantity to positively pressurise the facility. It was a huge challenge at that time to bring the retrofit AHU inside an operating facility and commission. Working with Mario Associates, under the guidance of the legendary Mario Seneviratne, as the Lead Designer, and with SKM, as the equipment supplier, the matter was largely resolved. Successfully completing the project gave me a huge sense of satisfaction, which lingers in my mind to this day.
Rewind a few years back to 1989 – I was working as an Application Sales Engineer with Voltas. My colleagues and I had to tender for a Satellite Cooling Project in Chennai, India, wherein I heard of desiccant dehumidification for the first time in my career. While I was excited to read all about Bry-Air dehumidifiers, the Regional Sales Manager at Voltas decided not to go ahead with the proposal, because he wanted the whole dehumidification to be carried by coils and not desiccant dehumidification. The reason – cost. Finally, we had to withdraw from submitting the proposal.
Since then, indoor environment dehumidification has always been a subject of interest to me. In my long career, I have had the opportunity of working on luxury villas in Emirates Hills and Palm Jumeirah, where my team and I, at Proleed, have had to design dehumidification for indoor pools; most of them had been with desiccant dehumidification, with Munters and Bry-Air being the Specialist Vendors.
They say that life comes a full circle. After nearly three decades, I had an opportunity to once again work on an indoor ice rink in a sports mall in the UAE. The project: A sports- themed mall, with an NHL-sized ice rink being the USP element and the wow factor. Adearest designed and developed the ice rink and the refrigeration system. My team at Proleed executed the design of the air conditioning system for the mall and the ice rink arena. And BK Gulf was the MEP Contractor for the project.
The design focus was to estimate the fairly accurate evaporation rate from the ice rink and select the right dehumidification equipment and system. There were many options available for dehumidification, and we weighed our choice between refrigeration type of dehumidification and desiccant type. The refrigeration-type dehumidifiers were cost-effective in terms of capex and opex. However, on further study, we noted that the refrigeration dehumidifiers were more suited for comfort-cooling applications, such as swimming pools and storage areas, where the dew points are not as low as in an ice rink application.
Hence, we opted for the desiccant dehumidification system, which GESS selected using Dehutech of Sweden. The design intent was to supply dehumidified air at 15 degrees C Dry Bulb and 2.8 gm/kg. The other key aspect of the design was the air distribution around the ice rink and the arena to ensure moisture pick up.
During construction, my engineering team had all the necessary checklists ticked, though we faced certain challenges due to the static pressure of the reactivation air fan. We were able to overcome these and were able to take the project through to the final TAB and T&C procedures. The design and construction teams worked in unison towards achieving the design parameters, leading to the successful handover of the ice rink HVAC system to the client in 2021.
Subsequently, the systems have been under regular maintenance through AMCs, and the companies involved during the construction phase have been commissioned to take care of this critical system.
Last week, I had a walk around the arena and was delighted to receive positive feedback from the end users and the tenants around the arena. It was a case of combined team effort from concept to commissioning, and beyond, which ensured a satisfying and rewarding experience for the engineer in me.
Kandasamy Anbalagan, drawing from his multiple decades of experience as an MEP consultant, writes a bi-monthly guest column on rapidly changing scenarii and their implications for the MEP industry. The writer is Managing Partner, Proleed Engineering Consultants. He may be reached at email@example.com.