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Insights from the Inaugural HVAC R Pioneers’ Summit on the Growth Opportunities and Rising Demand for Cooling Technologies in the Middle East

In light of the renewed focus by regulators for higher quality and more energy-efficient products, industry experts at the HVAC R Pioneers' Summit at the HVAC R Expo in Dubai were keen to highlight business strategies to cope with this demand and to offer innovative ways to adopt new technologies to develop the HVAC R industry in the Middle East effectively.

Staying ahead of the competition

As the HVAC R industry experiences growth in line with global warming, industry players look to capitalise on key growth drivers while innovating to mitigate external pressures in the industry.

Saziye Dickson, Research Manager - VAC&R, BRSIA UK

Key takeaways:

  • Climate change a key driver for HVAC R industry
  • Increase R&D needed to stay ahead of the competition
  • Smart cities need to be built to keep pace with urbanisation

 

According to the World Economic Forum, the Middle East is suffering on the front lines of climate change, and, without urgent climate action, Middle Eastern cities could soon become inhabitable. Climate change continues to place unprecedented pressure on the HVAC R industry, and the market continues to grow despite the many challenges. On the one hand, you have new entrants to the market, on the other you have consolidation of existing market players. This is driving players to increase their R&D activities to stay ahead of the competition.

The HVAC R industry is now worth US$ 115 billion and has experienced growth for the last five years in line with global warming. As a result, the industry is receiving an increasing number of investors from outside of the HVAC R industry who are keen to partner with AC companies.

The key driver for the HVAC R industry is climate change as the UN estimates that 1.1 billion people are in urgent need of cooling, and the average temperature in this region is predicted to reach 50 degrees Celsius. As such, energy efficiency is the top priority of HVAC R manufacturers; however, there remains a disconnection between manufacturers producing these systems, and those installing them. With the number of untrained installers increasing, the skills gap needs to be closed by training and education.

Meanwhile, urbanisation is touted as the next biggest driver the HVAC R industry as it is predicted that within 13 years, 64% of the population in developed nations will live in cities. So as amenities and cities are being developed at a rapid pace, smart cities need to be built to keep up. Currently, there are a significant number of acquisitions and mergers taking place across the region in order to offer a total product portfolio.

Why indoor air quality matters

A closer look at the link between indoor and outdoor air quality, focusing on where the responsibility lies and, ultimately, how we educate regulators, building owners, FM companies and residents on why indoor air quality really matters.

Suhas Inamdar, Head of Technical Support and Planning, Wasl Properties
Mohamed Elweshahy, MEP Director, Shomoul KSA
Brian Suggit, Chairman – Eurovent Middle East, MD – Sytemair
Mohamed Mazen, Consultant Sales Manager – Systems AC, Samsung

Key takeaways:

  • Building codes in the Middle East must specify indoor air quality control measures
  • Airspeed is one of the main concerns with indoor air quality
  • Air quality conditions need to be monitored post-handover

 

So what does it mean when we refer to indoor air quality? To illustrate its importance, consider the fact that we eat approximately 1 kg of food every day, consume around 2 litres of liquids, and we breathe around 10.8 litres of air per day. Without food or water, we can live for ten and three days, respectively. Without air, we can live for a maximum of three minutes. As 90% of our time is spent indoors, indoor air quality really matters.

The global market for technologies that deal with air quality was pegged at around US$ 3 billion in 2013. In 2020, this is expected to hit around US$ 6 billion and, out of this figure, the Middle East and North Africa are expected to be worth only US$ 100 million. So how, then, do we focus on bringing the outdoor air inside of our buildings, and who is ultimately responsible for indoor air quality control?

This issue we are seeing is that building codes across the region remain silent about indoor air quality control. Consultants need to educate the authorities on appropriate regulations, and building owners need to incorporate stricter measures into FM tendering where it specifies periodic checks for the air quality. We also need to see the introduction of more cost-competitive solutions for improving indoor air quality.

Similarly, we need to consider airspeed as one of the main concerns with indoor air quality by ensuring that the requirements of the room are designed by speed and volume. As designers are more focused on comfort levels rather than air quality specifications, there should be an amendment to the standard design process that also has criteria for indoor air quality, along with monitoring these conditions after the building is handed over. We need to have the same concept of design for indoor air quality as we do for indoor fire safety sensors in homes, for example, and FM management teams need to take a role in educating building occupants.

The next generation of chilled water pumping

We delve into the inefficiencies of current AC pumping systems and discover how auto-balancing, through distributed pumping, offers improved efficiencies and cost-savings.

Ronak Monga, Segment Development Manager – Building Services, Grundfos

Key takeaways:

  • The balancing of water pumping systems is often overlooked
  • Distributed pumping presents an opportunity for energy efficiency and cost savings
  • Commissioning becomes simple and demand-driven

 

Behind good air quality is a perfect air conditioning (AC) system. However, AC systems have been functioning in the same way for a while. AC systems today have one large pump or a pump set in the basement, and there are different ways of pumping these. The pumps ensure that the chilled water reaches even the furthest load with adequate pressure and flow, by adding a lot of energy to the water.

In order to control the flow, balancing is required by using modulating two-way control valves in order to modulate flow control by removing energy. The balancing, if not done correctly, will create zones of too much or too little cooling. Balancing needs to be done every three years on a system, but this is often overseen.

So, is there a system that allows us to improve the process and save energy? This is what distributed pumping presents. The pumps are heavily reduced in size, and their job is to circulate chilled water only within the plant room. Each unit has a dedicated secondary terminal unit pump that is flow-controlled within the particular room. Distributed pumping ensures just the right flow and pressure in the system.

This system of auto-balancing avoids over-pressuring the system and saves both CAPEX and OPEX at time of commissioning. Commissioning becomes simple and is completely demand-driven.

Navigating low chilled water Delta-T

With end-users often paying penalties to district cooling plants for low Delta-T syndrome, and where district cooling companies are forced to operate at a higher cost than necessary due to low Delta-T, there is demand for a solution.

Hassan Younes, President Elect, ASHRAE Falcon Chapter

Key takeaways:

  • Most district cooling plants and buildings worldwide suffer from some sort of low Delta-T in one form or another
  • Low Delta-T syndrome can have a significant impact on building energy performance
  • System delta-T is an effective indicator for evaluating the overall performance of chilled water distribution systems

 

Delta-T is the difference between the chilled water supply and the return water temperatures. Low Delta-T syndrome - less than 9 degrees Celsius - is a major issue we face in every chilled water system and is the result of the inefficient use of chilled water at the point of consumption. There are more than 30 causes of lower Delta-T including oversized valves, valves being kept open, the pumps running on manual mode, the bypass is left open, improperly selected control valves, to name a few.

The deficit flow problem and low Delta-T syndrome may cause a series of operational problems, such as high supply temperature, over-supplied chilled water flow rate, and the increased power consumption of secondary pumps. Some district cooling companies in the region have penalties for lower DT that will cause inefficiency in the plant.

What happens during a lower Delta-T system?

  • Chiller efficiency drops and you consume more energy
  • More water will have to be delivered to the buildings
  • The power consumption of cooling towers increases
  • Reduction of the chiller capacity

 

The solution to the problem is properly designed, selected, installed, operated and maintained airside equipment and properly designed, selected, installed, operated and maintained chilled water plants and pumping systems.

Innovations in HVAC

As an innovative technology for HVAC ductwork systems, we take a look at the benefits of Pre-Insulated Ductwork (PID) in comparison with insulated galvanised sheet steel and mineral fibre duct board ductwork systems.

Paul Barnard, Head of HVAC Specification – Middle East, Kingspan Insulation

Key takeaways:

  • This lightweight ductwork is quick to install and can yield significant cost savings
  • Ductwork can be cut and modified easily on-site
  • Whole life cost-saving for pre-insulated ductwork can be up to 20% over 30 years

 

Ductwork needs to do its job, which is delivering from A to B without duct leakage and losing temperature. Pre-Insulated duct (PID) is the new kid on the block as it offers very dense insulation.

Advantages of pre-insulated over traditional ductwork are that PID offers the option of space-saving, as it is fitted flush to the ceiling, as well as huge labour and time savings. It also allows for lower handling cost, less loads on building structure, and there is no need to do a seismic design on the structure.

These fibre-free phenolic panels are ideal for facilities such as labs, hospitals and F&B, and they are also optimal for high humidity environments such as swimming pools.

The installation process is optimised as large ducts can easily be installed by one person, and is installed in a single-fix and negates the need for the manual lagging process of insulating the ductwork after it has been installed. Weight-saving PID can weigh up to 85% less than fibre insulated sheet metal.

PID also solves many existing problems due to its versatility. For example, it keeps the thickness of the duct walls, and it can also be constructed as spiral ductwork and use different hanging systems. PID is also shown to improve indoor air quality, as it is a tightly sealed, cleanable surface with no fibres in the airstream. Complete non-ferrous options are also available.

Green and efficient chiller technologies: The way forward

Due to population growth driving energy demand in hot climatic regions such as the Middle East, compounded by climate change and its effect on cooling loads, finding energy-efficient chiller systems will gain increasing importance over the coming decades.

Rajesh Malik, Head of Product Marketing, Carrier Middle East

Key takeaways:

  • Finding ways to improve chiller function and operation is imperative
  • State-of-the-art controls are driving intelligent chiller plants
  • New chiller technologies show real-life performance improvement

 

In the United States, buildings account for 39% of energy consumption whereas, in the Middle East, chiller plants consume more than 50% of energy. Consequently, if we can find a way to improve the function and operation of the chiller, we can see significant efficiency improvement across the lifecycle of a building.

Current market dynamics in chiller plants:

  • Energy and operating costs – owners are looking at the lowest life cycle costs, and are concerned over rising electricity costs
  • Environmental impact – the phase-out of ozone-depleting refrigerants is nearly complete. Future implementation of the low GWP refrigerants
  • Technology – state-of-the-art controls are driving intelligent chiller plants

 

New chiller technologies:

  • Self-optimising controls are showing significant real-life performance improvement
  • Condenser EC fans provide energy efficiency compared to constant speed fans
  • Smart energy monitoring provides smart data based on intelligent algorithms
  • Automatic refrigerant leak detection algorithm
  • Pumping energy savings: VPF system shows savings of up to two thirds

Sustainable HVAC R strategies and designs for a greener future

We take a look at the sustainable HVAC R strategies that have proven to be successful in our region and explore how these strategies can be connected to smart buildings.

Rob Gregory, MEP Technical Director, Aurecon International
K Anbalagan, Managing Partner, Proleed Engineering Consultants
Lubna Senan, Sustainability Advisor, Milieu Environmental Consultancy
Faisal Rashid, Director – Demand Slide Management, Supreme Council of Energy, UAE
Sugata Nandi, Founder and CEO, 3e Advisory

 

Key takeaways:

  • The priority is to build a roadmap for sustainability in design
  • Energy recovery should be implemented throughout the design stages through a holistic approach
  • More inspections or follow up needed at building handover stage
  • Information should be passed on from the design and construction teams to the operations teams

 

According to the UAE’s Supreme Council of Energy, having a strategy and a roadmap, and target for energy management should be prioritised over everything when it comes to sustainability in design. Currently, the sustainability roadmap in the UAE is growing year by year and is envisioned up until 2050. This is key to the successful activation of green design measures.

The government-mandated green building codes currently only address new buildings as around 90% of the buildings in the UAE were built before building codes were applied. However, Dubai’s retrofit programme began in 2015 and has already reached 3,000 retrofitted buildings with a target of 30,000 buildings by 2030.

Education is found to be the basis for any improvement to implement and learn about sustainable strategies. As such, the Dubai Municipality updates the building codes every five to six years, and the custodian of the code carries out workshops to ensure that the code updated for all affected stakeholders.

However, it must be pointed out that the code itself is not the most crucial point. Instead, what matters is the verification process to ensure that the process is efficient, such as the survey carried out to compare the buildings that comply with the old and new codes to offer a real-time comparison. While regulations are an excellent initiative to create the right environment to generate discussion, on its own, regulations may become merely paperwork and not always result in tangible results for the end-user.

In order to benchmark their efforts, the UAE Government works closely with Emirates Green Building Council and, occasionally, issues reports on comparing performance on hotels, malls, and other buildings. The Government also has an energy efficiency arm where it collects the data for all of its programmes and issues an annual report.

When it comes to regulation, the issue is that, although designers can design and get clients to sign off the design, sustainability in the design is negated when buildings are not run as efficiently as they can be. There needs to be a holistic approach at an early stage of the project, from both a functional and aesthetic point of view. When energy recovery is being implemented throughout the design stages, sound engineering will produce a sustainable building that takes into account the performance and lifecycle.

Similarly, during the construction stage, currently, some clauses tick the boxes, but there are not enough inspections or follow up in terms of the final results of the building. If the authorities can check HVAC R during handover, this will bring in dramatic change.

There are also missing links between different stages of a project. To correct this, commissioning agents should be appointed by the owner to ensure a proper handover, and that all of the information is passed on from the design and construction teams to the operations teams. There is a pressing need to maintain this processing for the building to operate properly throughout its lifecycle.

Closing case study - HVAC design of a sustainable superior high rise building

In the design of HVAC R systems, some energy-saving techniques and measures can be used specifically for high-rise buildings. We take a look at the experience of one consultancy in achieving LEED platinum certification on a unique skyscraper on the Sheikh Zayed Road in Dubai, UAE.

Nicholas Byczynski, Director of MEP, WME Consultant

Key takeaways:

  • Chillers need to be designed with ventilation design that varies with height
  • For Middle East conditions, if you are designing a building above 250 metres, you should consider a 5% reduction in load universe
  • Everyone needs to be invested in sustainability to achieve the target

 

Currently, Dubai holds the record for the world’s most vertical city with 18 buildings above 300 metres and 73 building above 200 metres. One such live building project, located on the Sheikh Zayed Road in Dubai, is at the forefront of technology and design standing at 450 metres tall, but with a floor print of only 40 metres, i.e. it is 15 times taller than it’s width. This cutting-edge project fits into the ‘pencil tower’ description and has no columns inside the building, and air gardens help to break the wind.

Challenges to achieving LEED platinum for the project:

  • Requires very efficient chiller design with ventilation design that varies with height
  • A series of compressors were used in a counter flow arrangement with reduced the lift on each compressor, increasing the performance that you are achieving from that compressor
  • Chiller distribution challenges meant that CHW supply temperature was kept as high as possible to maximise chiller efficiency
  • In terms of technology, a magnetic bearing chiller was chosen, and it achieved significant energy reduction
  • Physical challenges to coordinate MEP equipment included not being able to get a chiller in a truck down into our basement, for example.
  • Water recovery - Had to use potable water for the cooling towers.
  • High rise ventilation design – Air properties change with altitude, and air pressure is reduced by 5% at the top of the tower. By the time you get to the top of the tower, you have less moisture than you have at the bottom.
  • Nothing was done to the building representing perfect value engineering with a 5% reduction in load universe.

Summary

As the world gets warmer and the HVAC R industry continues to deal with the pressures associated with climate change, industry players are increasingly adopting innovative and cost-saving technologies to keep up with the environmental circumstances. As a result, regulators across the region are intensifying their efforts to adjust building regulations to stay apace with the rising demand for cooling technologies in the Middle East, and there is a renewed focus for companies to adopt new business strategies to aid the rapid development of smart cities. The link between indoor and outdoor air quality is also a major focus, as consultants, authorities, building owners and building occupants need to work together to improve indoor air quality in the Middle East.