Masthead - Climate Control Journal

Facilio raises USD 35m for real estate AI initiative

DUBAI, UAE; NEW YORK CITY, USA, 22 February 2022: Property operations software platform company, Facilio said it has raised USD 35 million in Series B financing led by Dragoneer Investment Group, with participation from Brookfield Growth and existing investors, Accel India and Tiger Global Management.

L-R: Yogendra Babu, Co-founder and CTO, Facilio; Prabhu Ramachandram, Co-founder and CEO, Facilio; Krishnamoorthi Rangasamy, Co-Founder, Revenue & Business Operations, Facilio; and Rajavel Subramanian, Co-Founder, Head of Product, Facilio

“Our customers understand that success in a post-pandemic world will be achieved by driving efficiency gains and delivering smooth customer experiences,” said Prabhu Ramachandran, Founder & CEO, Facilio. “We are uniquely positioned to accelerate digital transformation in the built world and lead the industry’s transition towards IoT-led connected buildings. This investment will allow us to extend our market leadership, expand sales and marketing, and enable more companies to reach success through a predictive, connected model of real estate operations.” Facilio claimed it has emerged as a next-generation leader in the USD 50 billion commercial real estate-focused operations software market.

It said it has established a broad, global customer base and is rapidly gaining share with faster-than-market-sales growth across multiple geographies.

The company said its growing list of portfolio-scale deployments include commercial office buildings, retail chains, hospital systems and higher-education campuses.

Eric Jones, Partner, Dragoneer Investment Group, said: “Facilio has unlocked a world of potential with its AI-based predictive approach to increase operational effectiveness. We were blown away by the customer-love that Facilio receives from their diverse roster of global clients. The company is on its way to revolutionizing operations for real estate portfolios, and we are proud to support this customer-obsessed team.”

Facilio said it excels in guiding real estate portfolios through their digital transformation journey with its advanced IoT-native and mobile-first product offerings. As a result, it said, many leading organisations dealing with outdated solutions from incumbent vendors are turning to it for digital support.

Josh Raffaelli, Managing Partner, Brookfield, said: “We have been customers of Facilio, and now it’s incredible to be a partner in their journey. What Prabhu and the team are building isn’t merely a great product portfolio but a movement towards data-led property operations. The company is writing the blueprint for how modern real estate portfolios will operate in the next decade and beyond.”

ASHRAE participates in High Performance Buildings Coalition Congressional Event

ATLANTA, Georgia, 9, June 2021: In recognition of High Performance Building Week, 2020-21 ASHRAE President Charles E Gulledge III, spoke on a panel, titled ‘Building Better: Congressional and Private Sector Efforts to Promote High Performance Buildings’. Congressman, Peter Welch (D-VT), Co-Chair, High Performance Buildings Caucus, and the High Performance Building Coalition organized the event. The Coalition comprises more than 200 manufacturers, trade associations and other stakeholders who support policies and legislation that advance the next generation of buildings.

Joining Gulledge on the panel were chief executives from the International Code Council (ICC), the Green Building Initiative (GBI) and the International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials (IAMPO), ASHRAE said. This was followed by a Q&A session moderated by Lakisha A Woods, CAE, President and CEO, National Institute of Building Sciences (NIBS).

In his remarks, Gulledge spoke from ASHRAE’s current Society theme, ‘The ASHRAE Digital Lighthouse and Industry 4.0’, which focuses on reimaging the building industry, ASHRAE said.

“With the technological transformation of how we design, build, and operate buildings, the lines within the built environment including energy and infrastructure are increasingly blurred,” Gulledge said. “We must think about how existing buildings fit into this transformation. About half of the commercial buildings in the U.S. were constructed more than 35 years ago. Revitalizing these existing buildings represents Congress’s single best opportunity for making a significant impact on sustainability, resiliency, and energy efficiency. ASHRAE is committed to working with Congress to provide resources and knowledge which continually drive the innovative and strategic improvements needed during this transformation of the built environment.”

According to ASHRAE, Gulledge highlighted the new ASHRAE Global Headquarters building to demonstrate how to transform older existing buildings into high-performance workplace environments in a cost-effective and practical way.

AHRI Board approves decarbonization general position statement

ARLINGTON, Virginia, 18 May 2021: The Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI) on May 14 released a General Position Statement on Decarbonization, advancing the association as a resource for states and localities grappling with how to successfully, sustainably and affordably reduce emissions related to the built-environment.

AHRI revealed the paper as noting, “The air conditioning, heating, ventilation, refrigeration, and water heating industry has a long history of providing innovative, high-quality, energy-saving, affordable products that enhance the comfort, safety, health, and productivity of businesses and people around the world”. It expresses AHRI’s support for “the ongoing, science-based transition to a lower carbon society, in which consumer choices for heating, cooling, water heating, and commercial refrigeration are the most energy efficient, environmentally beneficial available anywhere in the world, while maintaining appropriate and adequate levels of safety, health, comfort, and affordability”.

Stephen Yurek, President & CEO, AHRI, said: “Our member companies – which have more than 100 years of experience and expertise in product solutions, technology, and innovation – can serve as a valuable resource in helping the nation achieve a lower carbon society.”

The statement, AHRI said, comes on the heels of the success of the American Innovation and Manufacturing (AIM) Act, passed by Congress in 2020, which provides authority to the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate the production of high-global warming potential hydrofluorocarbons and establishes a national phase down structure for the refrigerants that are widely used in air conditioning and refrigeration equipment. That effort, AHRI said, more than 10 years in the making for the industry, is forecast to ultimately result in a 0.5 degree reduction in global temperatures over the next 30 years, even as it creates jobs and helps the industry’s global trade posture.

Systemair announces supplying smart, sustainable HVAC solutions for Expo 2020

DUBAI, UAE, 11 October 2021: The Systemair Group, as official sponsor of the Swedish Pavilion at Expo 2020, from October 1 to March 31 in Dubai, will showcase modern climate solutions from Systemair and Frico that, it said, will ensure visitors to the Pavilion are able to breathe clean air and enjoy the cool climate in a smart and sustainable manner. Announcing this through a Press release, Systemair Group added that Systemair and Frico will also be organising several exciting events aimed at educating stakeholders on the importance of achieving optimum indoor air quality without compromising on energy efficiency.

Morten Schmelzer showcases one of the Geniox AHU, located on the roof of the Swedish Pavilion

Morten Schmelzer, Technical Marketing Director, Systemair Group, said: “As proud sponsors of the Swedish Pavilion, we want to ensure visitors can benefit from healthy and comfortable indoor climate. Keeping this in mind, we have carefully selected the products that will ensure fresh air supply, which is especially crucial in view of COVID-19. Our solution also offers a minimum of 50% lower electrical power consumption and sustainable cooling recovery as high as 65%, which is unique for the Middle East. Lastly, the products are in line with the latest high European and ISO standards, which enable the best possible IAQ with minimum energy utilisation.”

Systemair Group said it supplied 10 of its high-end Geniox AHUs with state-of-the-art control systems to meet requirements of the local ambient conditions, as well as the spatial challenges posed by the unique design of the structure. It said it also supplied a sorption cooling recovery system with special material on the heat-recovery wheel, along with fan-coil units, a Sysaqua 170 chiller and a roof fan – the DVG EC560. The pavilion features two of the latest-generation air curtains from Frico, installed in the shop and the cafeteria, it added.

Exterior of the Swedish Pavilion

According to Systemair Group, Systemair and Frico will hold a VIP keynote event and reception night during the Expo, featuring leading global experts, who will discuss trends and innovations relating to the next generation of sustainable HVAC technologies. Also in the information dissemination mix, Systemair Group said, is an exclusive workshop that will elaborate on how stakeholders can leverage advanced technical solutions to obtain healthy indoor air in their projects while saving energy in their projects.

‘Asia is seeing an increase in demand for HEPA filtration’

Rahul Uppal

Could you give us an overview on the demand for air filtration in India, Sri Lanka and the Middle East? From an end-user perspective, are we as an industry moving towards a more sensitised market? Do end-users understand the urgency of deploying high-efficiency filters and good IAQ?

The pandemic has presented us with the opportunity to promote the value of clean air and air filtration solutions. There is an increasing awareness on the importance of the highest quality air filters and filtration equipment for clean air solutions across Asian countries.  People are increasingly looking for global quality filters and equipment to ensure a safe working environment and ecologically friendly solution in all their applications. They have realized that good IAQ improves our quality of life, making us more productive, protecting critical processes and equipment besides improving health and reducing risk. Demand for HEPA filters has increased, as industries and domestic users in India, Sri Lanka and the Middle East now demand good IAQ.  This understanding will benefit the consumers and our industry.  Overall, the outlook for our industry is positive.

Asian countries are transitioning from a price-sensitive market to a quality-sensitive market, albeit slowly. The main hurdle is the availability of finances, since the world economy has been adversely impacted by COVD-19. However, the economies will get better sooner than later, and hence, we are quite hopeful about the future. In India, demand for clean air solutions with HEPA filters has risen in pharmaceutical and medical sectors and engineering institutions. Embassies and high- and middle-range hotels are looking to retrofit their existing air-handling units (AHUs) with world-class clean air solutions, and this has increased our business opportunities.

Sri Lanka has changed its foreign policy recently and allows the import of only essential commodities. We do not have a manufacturing base in Sri Lanka. We are quite hopeful of getting approval for including our products in the essential category list. In the Middle East, the demand for the highest quality air filters and filtration equipment continues to grow.

What are the connections that can be drawn between active government policies and the HVAC&R industry in India?

Governments across the globe initially imposed strict lockdown policies to save lives. This led to a severe reduction in GDP growth with fear of economies falling into recession. With time, knowledge about the virus and its handling has improved.  Most Governments, including in India, have adopted a policy of saving both lives and livelihood. This implies that countries are in the process of opening all economic sectors gradually with strict safety protocols in place.

Health care specialists have realized that health care facilities need to be drastically improved or upgraded and that IAQ is a critical component to stop the spread of the virus and to save lives. Private hospitals and facilities have recognized the importance of IAQ, and many have already initiated steps to implement HEPA-based clean air solutions. I am confident that government hospitals and facilities will also upgrade once their financial position improves.

Could you elaborate on how AAF designs HEPA filters to specifically meet the needs of the market in India?

HEPA filters are designed to remove at least 99.97% of 0.3-micron airborne pollutants. The virus COVID-19 is determined to be 0.125 micron in diameter. The virus does not live on its own. Virus particles tend to piggyback on the aerosolized droplet, skin flake or dust particles and move as an aerosol. Aerosols produced by people when they breathe, talk and cough are generally between about 0.7 microns and around 10 microns – completely invisible to the naked eye and easily able to float in the air. The virus can also spread through the air if it is not trapped in the HVAC system, thereby causing infection. In temporary precautionary quarantine or isolation rooms, to isolate the suspected cases where the patients’ exhaled air can contain the virus (of range 160nm), the virus may not travel in the air but can occasionally enclose into larger droplets and move as an aerosol. These aerosols can be arrested by HEPA filters. So, it is necessary to upgrade the air filtration system to HEPA filter at the last stage of filtration in the AHUs.

HEPA filters were initially designed specifically for the unique requirements and challenges of the aseptic pharmaceutical manufacturing industry. They have broad application in cleanrooms and other areas requiring the highest standard of contamination control. HEPA filters do not generate ozone or harmful by-products and are, therefore, environmentally friendly.

What R&D are you able to report?

At AAF Flanders, we are backed by strong R&D centres, where our engineers and scientists are bringing the next generation of high-performance air filtration products and equipment to the market. Our products adhere to international IAQ standard EN 1822 and have India’s first Auto-scan-tested HEPA and ULPA filters. Our industry-grade solutions and systems, such as PurAir and AstroPure, are specially designed to combat the existing COVID-19 situation.  The AstroPure 500 is designed specifically to enable a healthcare facility to quickly convert a standard patient room to a negative pressure isolation room with minimum expenditure. The product is versatile and can be used in an Emergency Room, Operation Room, an ICU and even a radiology suite, wherever airborne infection isolation is required. AstroPure can also be utilised as a re-circulating device in outpatient clinics, in waiting areas and other common use areas, where the health status of patients and visitors is unknown.

Among other products, the ceiling-mounted air purifiers with a powerful three-stage filtration system with UV light and a fan have proved to be extremely successful for health care facilities. Another product is a combination of PurAir 350C with an isolation stretcher, which is designed for the protection of health care workers. A feature of the stretcher is that it traps the contaminated air, ensuring that only clean air is released to the outside environment. This effectively contains the virus while allowing medical staff to attend to the patient without exposure.  This solution can effectively be used in ambulances, test labs and many other such places, where there is a high risk of medical staff getting infected.

Tell us about the Auto-scan test machine.

AAF-Daikin is proud to be the first Auto-scan-certified HEPA and ULPA filter provider in India.  Our manufacturing processes are ISO 9001 certified. Our machines are EN 1822-compliant, and all our products are manufactured in an ISO Class 8 cleanroom environment. We have Auto-scan test machine, which generates an auto-scan test report of all the key specifications of the product as proof of its efficiency. There is no human interference in the generation of the Auto-scan report. All our products must mandatorily undergo the Auto-scan, and only those products that meet the laid down specifications can be shipped. Each printed copy of the test result shows the particle penetration and its accepted indicators on a 3D map, and this helps identify the filter’s performance. All our products are of the highest quality that is consistent with international standards.

What business strategies have you adopted to navigate through the COVID-19 pandemic? What is the company doing differently amidst these trying times?

The virus is highly contagious and has quickly spread globally. The pandemic has presented us with an opportunity to promote the value of clean air and air filtration solutions. Our business strategy is to bring about greater awareness among people and the government regarding the importance of good IAQ and how good IAQ can improve health and reduce risk. We realize that the world is facing an economic crunch, and most are unable to upgrade their facility to provide a clean IAQ environment due to a lack of finances. To help mitigate this problem, we are offering to resolve the IAQ issues by offering to implement clean air solutions by charging monthly or annually for clean air per square foot for a limited period instead of purchasing the equipment in one go.



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Future of HVAC in India is bright, says Magneto Clean Tech

New Delhi, India, 18 June 2019: The HVAC industry in India has immense potential but is heavily dependent on the economic activity around the building industry, said Himanshu Agarwal, CEO, and Founder, Magneto Clean Tech, while providing an overview on the HVAC market in India. In the last few years, heavy debt has propelled the industry to undergo a restructuring, which has led to excessive competition and a price war, he said. From a broad perspective, Agarwal said, air pollution in India is high and the awareness regarding the bad air quality is a subject that is given more attention every day. This he said, will lead to high demand for air systems.

Elaborating on Magneto Clean Tech, a New Delhi-based HVAC company, Agarwal said: “Magneto Clean Tech invents and popularises clean air technology for developing nations. We focus on making clean air accessible to everyone, whether in homes, in the office or in buildings.” By pushing the limits of engineering, he said, we are able to build the highest quality of products that exhibit performance. While providing an overview of the work done in the year 2018, he said, we delivered clean air to a total area of 2.5 million square feet. “The year 2019, Agarwal said, looks bright as the company’s projected growth rate is over 100%.

Magneto Clean Tech’s products, he said, have energy-saving benefits due to a very low-pressure drop in the air conditioner. They clean the air holistically, removing dust, micro-organisms and even harmful gases, he said. “We have successfully commercialised a proprietary way of purifying indoor air that is fundamentally superior to current methods,” he said. In addition, Agarwal highlighted that the company has a diverse range of air-purification products that deals with PM 2.5, along with infection control, which as a technology, is being received with an overwhelmingly positive response from users.

France to ban the use of R-44

Vaulx-Millieu, France, 22 April 2019: The refrigeration market in western Europe is now moving from the refrigerant, R-22 to R-44; however, France will soon ban R-44, said Lionel Audouy, Global Platform Director – Sales and Logistics, Tecumseh Europe, while giving an update on the use of refrigerants and the market in France and, generally, in western Europe. “With R-44 soon to be gone, we see regulation around the use of F-gas, where the focus will be on meeting customer demands, choosing the right products, and training people to work on the job,” Audouy said.

Lionel Audouy

The market in western Europe, he said, is heavily regulated when it concerns matters related to refrigerant reclaim. “If you’re working in the refrigeration business,” Audouy said, “you need to have a certificate and show the quantity of refrigerant being collected.” He highlighted a few stressors influencing the market in western Europe, and said that managing leaks in systems while lowering the Global Warming Potential (GWP) and the need for skilled and trained professionals working on the job were the major factors influencing the market.

PHI-Cell technology can benefit the food supply chain, says RGF

Florida, USA, 14 April 2019: RGF’s patented Photohydroionization (PHI-Cell) technology has benefited the food supply chain, said Bill Svec, VP, Water and Food Products, RGF Environmental Group, while highlighting the company’s contribution to maintaining good IAQ in the food supply chain. According to RGF, PHI is an advanced oxidation technology, used to minimise and neutralise air pollutants, such as bacteria, viruses, mould, gases (VOCs) and other odours from indoor air. Pointing to the present scenario, he said, today there are daily reports where food is recalled due to bacterial contamination that occurs in the processing plant or in the supply chain.

Bill Svec, VP, Water and Food Products, RGF Environmental Group

Elaborating, he said, in the past, chemicals were often used as a food safety intervention mechanism, which was not only costly but would also affect the taste and the colour of the food. Today, he added, those who grow food organically benefit most from the technology, and in the food safety aspect, processors have realised that the shelf life of the food product has greatly improved over time.

Single- and two-phase secondary refrigerants have much to contribute to sustainable cooling, says academic

Uttar Pradesh, India, 14 April 2019: Single-phase and two-phase secondary refrigerants have much to contribute to sustainable cooling, said Dr Jahar Sarkar, Associate Professor, Indian Institute of Technology, Varanasi. Explaining in brief about the concept, he said, “Secondary refrigerants are heat-transfer fluids and are used for sub-ambient temperature cooling applications, which involve the transfer of heat from a conditioned space to the evaporator of the refrigeration system.” Elaborating, he said, as the working pressure is high within the refrigeration system, there is a chance that the primary refrigerant may leak with long-route evaporator applications. “To avoid the leakage,” he added, “the secondary refrigeration loop is used for a multiple cabinet cooling application.” The single-phase secondary refrigerant consists of an anti-freeze solution, corrosion inhibitor, and biocides, which generally remains in the liquid phase through the loop, whereas the two-phase secondary refrigerants take advantage of the high latent heat during the phase change process in the loop, turning it from liquid to solid to the gaseous state, he said.

Highlighting the extent to which secondary refrigerants such as single-phase and two-phase fluids are used in India, Sarkar added, “Single-phase fluids, such as water-based brines (aqueous fluid), containing glycols (e.g. ethylene and propylene glycols) or salts (e.g. magnesium and calcium chlorides) are widely used in many industries, including ice plant, food processing plant and in supermarkets.” However, non-aqueous single-phase fluids, he said, are also available in the international market.

Sustainable solutions, digitalisation are the way ahead

As the new BASF Vice President for operations in the Middle East, could you take us through the roadmap of the company?

BASF is an active partner in the industry in the UAE. We have been present in the region for over a century, and our office in the UAE dates back to the 1970s. You can, therefore, say that we are deeply rooted in the region. In addition to our regional headquarters in Dubai, we have offices in Abu Dhabi, Al Khobar and Cairo. In the UAE, we operate a state-of-the-art polyurethane system house in Dubai Industrial City and a production facility for construction chemicals in Dubai Investment Park. Our construction chemicals business also has sites in Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt. In Bahrain, we operate a production facility for customised plastic additives. We have always aligned our business with the strategic vision and economic agenda of the governments in the region. What the visions have in common is not only a strong drive towards growth and economic diversification but also the realisation that having a commitment to sustainability is key to achieving long-term growth. We see unprecedented opportunities in various sectors to support these national priorities, and hence, we share our knowledge and expertise. After all, our commitment to sustainable solutions is anchored in the corporate purpose of BASF, which is to create a sustainable future.

Dr Udo Huenger, Vice President, Middle East, BASF

To what extent is BASF reinforcing its commitment to sustainability, innovation and digitalisation, while also expanding its footprint across the region? 

Our new strategy, which we presented in November 2018, aims at profit and a CO2-neutral growth. This means that we will decouple our greenhouse gas emissions from organic growth. To achieve this, we will improve the management, efficiency and integration of our manufacturing sites, and wherever possible, we plan on purchasing a greater share of electricity from renewable energy sources. We have already reduced emissions by 50% in absolute terms, compared to 1990 levels, while doubling our production in this period. In addition, we are working closely with a number of relevant stakeholders to drive sustainable water action and have been awarded a top ‘A’ rating by the international organisation, CDP, formerly the Carbon Disclosure Project. We also want to grow our share of so-called ‘accelerator’ products, including in the Middle East. Across all customer industries, we have identified 13,000 accelerator solutions. These are products that have made a substantial contribution to making the value chain more sustainable. An example of an accelerator product that is performing very well in this region is Neopor, an insulation material that offers improved insulation performance and contributes to climate protection and energy efficiency. Another example is Elastocool, a system made for the insulation of fridges and freezers. The material has a low-thermal conductivity by approximately 0.5 mW/mK, which enables the achievement of energy classes A++ and A+++. The fast cycling time leads to higher output in production, while high compressive strength values lead to lower material consumption per unit. In addition, digital solutions are helping us achieve our sustainability-related goals. Digitalisation presents opportunities, and by using digital technologies and data, we are able to create additional value for our customers and increase efficiency along with the effectiveness of our process. Digitalisation makes our business smoother and eventually makes it cheaper.

You mentioned that there is a strong drive towards localised, advanced manufacturing. What are the challenges you foresee, and how do you plan on tackling them? 

When we look at Egypt, a key market in our region, we are increasingly serving local customers, whereas, in the past, a large part of our customer base was multinationals with a presence in Egypt. Other countries in the region, including countries in the Gulf, are also moving in a similar direction. Therefore, I see opportunities for BASF, rather than challenges. One driving factor will be localisation. We are already producing locally and will expand this in the future with the mixing, blending and packaging of materials. Local storage is also becoming increasingly important.

Tacking heat-transfer in refrigeration an onerous task, says academic

Uttar Pradesh, India, 14 April 2019: Tackling heat-transfer within the scope of refrigeration, poses its own set of challenges. Dr Jahar Sarkar, Associate Professor, Indian Institute of Technology, Varanasi, in the central Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, said that secondary refrigerants, such as brine fluids, will have a low heat transfer and a high pumping power due to high-viscosity, which leads to a pressure drop. Within the scope of brines, Sarkar added, the brine made of calcium chloride is comparatively the best and is also the more commonly used secondary refrigerant. Supercritical carbon dioxide (sCO2), he said, is a good option and is used in supermarket installations; however, the operating pressure for sCO2 is high.  However, he said that there are other non-aqueous options, which are also cost-effective.

Ice-slurry, Sarkar said, is one option for heat-transfer. “Supermarkets that use ice-slurry — the mixture of water, ice and ethanol – have also been evaluated in European countries,” he said. Gas hydrate-slurry, he said, is another promising secondary refrigerant; however, it is still under research and development. The numerous options available in the scope of secondary refrigerants, Sarkar highlighted, makes it difficult to choose the best option, as they all have advantages and disadvantages.”

While giving an update on the situation with regard to the use of refrigerants in India, Sarkar said that today, there are a number of products equipped with eco-friendly refrigerants — hydrocarbons, used in supermarket installations. However, the phase-out process of refrigerants having a high global warming potential (GWP) is slow, as compared to developed countries.

Microgrids enhance a region’s resilience

Could you provide a first-hand account of Superstorm Sandy, and how Princeton served the community through its microgrid?

The hurricane moved its way up the eastern seaboard of the United States, and as it approached campus, it took down trees, affecting power quality and reliability. Soon, it caused the utility power to go out, and as the voltage dropped, our plant shut down. However, the microgrid was able to self-restore, and we used the power to restart power supply to the campus. So technically, we were without power for only 15 minutes. The tricky situation here was getting administrative permission to isolate the campus from the rest of the power grid. Because we had cogeneration on site, we were able to separate and shut off the less important loads on campus. We ran separately from the power grid for days. We told people in the community, if their house is cold, we had set up cots and that they could come and rest at the University. However, most importantly, the first responders – that is, the firefighters and the police – were able to come to the university and get a meal and recharge their phones and radios. They were able to have meetings and decide what they should work on next, before getting back on to the field. The important takeaway here is that you don’t need every single place to have a microgrid, but if you have one occasionally, scattered throughout a community or region, it does make a huge difference.

Microgrids reportedly lower energy costs for customers. How much, though? Are the savings significant to overcome capex barriers?

The big savings come from the fact that microgrids enable cogeneration, thermal storage and other cost-saving opportunities. We generate a lot of power whenever the grid price is higher than our marginal cost to generate. We purchase a lot of power whenever the grid price is lower than our marginal cost to generate. That way, our campus customers enjoy the benefit of the lesser cost. Savings relate to dozens of factors and are very specific to the location, the grid and the energy needs being served. Payback may take from five to 15 years, depending on these factors. Or, under a power-purchase agreement, the savings may be immediate. In any case, though, the lifecycle savings are far more than the capex. Fewer microgrids would be built if they weren’t. Even utility customers outside the microgrid save a little money if they pay real-time utility rates, because our generation has the effect of slightly lowering the total net cost of power on the grid. That is, establishing a microgrid is a win-win for all customers, not a zero-sum game.

Ted Borer, Energy Plant Manager, Princeton University

You describe microgrids as distributing risk into smaller pieces, whereby grid reliability is improved. Could you please elaborate?

Imagine there are two large utility generators serving a region. Each is capable of generating enough power to serve the grid by itself – that is, 100% redundancy. It’s easy to picture scenarios where those generators, or the substations or the wires between the plants and the ultimate customers are damaged. There are a few points with high vulnerability in the system that could interrupt service to large portions of the region. Alternatively, if we reduce the size of the two plants and scatter several microgrids around the region, it is possible to have the same (or less) total installed generating capacity, while increasing reliability.

Microgrids, as per your description, reduce both energy use and peak demand and work well with CHP to greatly increase energy efficiency. This means they can widely be used as the system of choice, or do they work well only in some applications?

Microgrids would work everywhere, but they are not financially attractive and make no sense in some places. For instance, at home, on a tiny scale, you could buy two different-sized generators; however, you might spend five times as much if you run the air handler, the oven on self-cleaning mode, the welding machine and other appliances that use electricity. It’s not about what’s possible, but whether it is cost-effective and a sensible use of your financial resources. For instance, with regard to installation and maintenance, right now the utilities provide electricity to us, and you don’t need to worry about it. But if you decide to build yourself a microgrid, you need to begin doing what they (the utilities) have been doing. You need to make sure it’s safe and that you know how to operate and maintain it. You need to make sure that you have good fuel and that the fuel is of good quality. So by establishing a microgrid, you have taken on a lot more responsibilities and you get greater benefits. You have to ask yourself, “I am going to spend some money, but is that money going to be worth it?”

Could you elaborate on the economic motivation to conserve energy and how the scenario with regard to price and energy is different from the Middle East?

In Dubai, for instance, the price of electricity is the same all day and all night; whether you’re a residential customer or commercial, it’s the same price. In our state, in New Jersey, the price of power for residential customers never changes, but for commercial purposes it changes dramatically, as fast as five minutes. It’s not rigorously a demand charge but more of an energy charge that changes every five minutes. In the middle of the night I might pay two cents per kilowatt-hour and in the day I may pay 25 cents per kilowatt-hour, so it could be 10 times as much. We have a very strong economic motivation and use as much energy as we can during the night in order to avoid the amount of energy purchased during the day.

Could you elaborate on the University’s control platform, which reportedly works relative to the energy needs of the campus in accordance with grid and weather conditions to forecast the corresponding load?

The control system advices us and helps us predict when electricity is going to be expensive and cheap. It is a combination of a software along with many meters, where we look at temperatures, pressures, flows and energy use through all the major equipment on campus. It is not rigorously an IoT-powered system, because when I think of IoT I understand it to be hundreds and thousands of data points connected to a system. In our system, we have a few hundred data points. I mean one temperature signal, a pressure signal, while the rest are sensors. The sensors are not scattered and are not radio transmitters; they are Bluetooth-enabled and hardwired directly back to the campus.

You say that existing generation assets can be operated in new ways for additional revenue with little capital investment. Could you please elaborate?

Yes. We built our cogeneration system in 1996. It wasn’t until 2003 that power was deregulated in our state of New Jersey. At that time, it became more lucrative to generate more power during the day and less power at night. We used the same asset fewer hours per year and generated more savings. More recently, the power grid has established a market for frequency regulation. By modulating the output of our existing gas turbine in response to a grid frequency signal, we are able to help support the local grid frequency. We get compensated for this activity at about 3x the price of power. It is a new revenue stream, same asset. It is a minor investment in controls.

Microgrids provide self-sufficiency and resilience especially in emergency situations. How can they be applied in the United Arab Emirates?

We put in cogeneration not because of reliability issues but in order to save us money. A collateral benefit is that it also gives us reliability and resilience in crisis. I believe that the power supply in the United Arab Emirates is very reliable and very good, so there’s nothing to take away from that. But every once in a while, we still expect that there might be a problem, something that might take out the energy supply, and it would be nice to have spots of enhanced reliability. Having microgrids at critical locations, such as police centres, firefighting stations and hospitals, is crucial. The United Arab Emirates could benefit from cogeneration, not because the power is unreliable but firstly to save money and also to be more efficient. The power plant by itself might be 25-45% efficient, but if you do cogeneration, you could even do 75-80% efficiency. Hence, I am not concerned with who owns it; it could be a government or a utility or even a privately owned microgrid. Even with technology, you can use chillers, gas turbines, jet engines or diesel fuel.

Deciphering the dynamics of The Water Hub

Could you highlight how the drought situation drove Emory to develop The Water Hub?

The Water Hub was a concept my colleagues learnt about at a conference approximately 8-9 years ago. At the time, the technology was deployed in Europe but not in the United States. At the time, even Atlanta was going through heavy drought, and so we pursued the technology, which was put through various capital-funding concepts. Initially, a third-party actually funded, maintained and operated the facility. The water extracts were redistributed through the plants, and the contract was eventually signed in 2013, after which the facility came online in early 2015. In addition, the wastewater treated at the plant meets very high cleanliness standards – so much so that the water can be released back into the creek.

The Water Hub meets almost 100% of the water requirements of the campus’ utility systems, including Emory’s chilled water plants and the central campus steam plant, which provide cooling and heating to over 70 buildings. What is the capacity of the District Energy plants?

The Water Hub can clean up to 400,000 gallons of water per day, and we maximise the volume during our summer cooling period. We have around 20,000-25,000 tonnes of cooling capacity, so we are able to make up the cooling capacity with the volume of water.

The Water Hub, as we understand it, provides a low-energy, high-efficiency cleaning process through filtration, circulation through natural earth and plant bioreactors, and exposure to ultraviolet light and chlorination. How much is the energy cost?

In the locale where we are, our water is sent downstream to a very large water treatment plant, where it would be treated, redistributed and then pumped back into the system. Similar to power and when you have energy-redistributed resources, so we have to pump and process close to where the demand is and we don’t have the distribution losses or the energy needed to pump the clean water back to us or to pump the waste down to the treatment plant. So, the numbers aren’t as transparent as we’d like them to be, but we do know that it is saving energy, because we are only pumping it within our campus.

Could you elaborate on the challenges with regard to achieving operational efficiencies?

One of the things we found out early on was that there are a lot of different things in the sanitary waste stream. We found that one of the research departments was dumping animal beddings into the sewer system, and it was creating problems at the pump intakes. As a result, they had to keep cleaning the pumps and pulling them out. We then asked them to compost the animal beddings, which was a better way to dispose them. It has really given us a crude understanding of what’s in the system, and presently we have an issue where they have found baby wipes in the system. This is a major challenge in terms of what’s plugging the intakes. When you are not in the business, you don’t think about these things. We did not anticipate all this, and now we have installed filtering devices on the front end.

How were you able to reduce carbon emissions with regard to water use on campus?

Well, I think it goes back to discharging and reusing our own water. Now, we are not relying on pumping water from a distance. We also installed solar panels at the facility, so they are helping set the electrical use at the water plant.

Joan Kowal, Senior Director, Energy & Utilities, Emory University

Does the water need to be polished before deploying it as makeup water for the campus chilled-water system?

We have polishers at our steam plant, but we don’t have them at our cooling towers. However, we did have to modify our chemical treatment programme at the cooling towers. Modify in the sense that the original chemistry was based on the quality of the water. So, we had to reduce some and add others, while adjusting the menu of chemicals used.

What happens to the blowdown water? Where does it go?

When water is brought to the cooling tower, it rejects the heat from the chilled water system, and as you reject the heat you see a steam mist coming from the top. The evaporation of water causes a concentrated mix of chemicals left in the basin of the cooling tower. When the chemicals concentrate and get to a point that is high, you then have to get the valve and blow down the water. It is then closed and refilled with non-chemically treated water. We operate in 7-8 cycles of blowing down water, which then goes back to the Hub and mingles with the rest of the water. The rest goes back out to a different part of the sanitary system.

What has been the overall response to The Water Hub? Also, are there any additional challenges with regard to odour?

There are people interested who want to replicate what we have. We were very stringent with our developer, when it comes to smell. There shouldn’t be an odour, and it is located right near residential facilities and offices. The technology we use is such that you don’t have the build-up of gases to create the smell.

Facilio-led conference highlights challenges related to digitalisation in FM

The challenge faced by FM companies after having adopted digitalisation, in an attempt to establish measurable value and return on investments (ROI) was one of the key points of a panel discussion during Future Proof, a conference Dubai-based Facilio hosted on March 14 at the Palace Down Town in Dubai.

FM professionals in the region attended the conference. The panelists in the discussion included Fahad Mohamed, Technical Head FM, Deyaar Properties; Andrea Deutschbein, Director FM, EMAAR Malls Group; Stephen Hayes, Head of Facilities and Engineering (MENA), Marriott International and Sangeetha B, Deputy CEO, Al Fajer Facilities Management.

L to R: Prabhu Ramachandran, Founder and CEO, Facilio; Sangeetha B, Deputy CEO, Al Fajer Facilities Management; Stephen Hayes, Head of Facilities and Engineering (MENA); Andrea Deutschbein, Director FM, EMAAR Malls Group, Fahad Mohamed, Technical Head FM, Deyaar Properties

While moderating the discussion, Prabhu Ramachandran, Founder and CEO, Facilio, said: “Today, there is disparity, where few companies are highly digitised, while others are still on paper.” The ultimate digitalisation for real-estate, he said, is when you are able to monitor what’s happening in your building while being placed anywhere in the world.

Sharing her experience on how Al Fajer FM has embraced digitalisation, Sangeetha, said, “Technology has a large part to play in every organisation, and it also a part of our strategy.” Embracing technology, she added, enables FM companies to offer a comprehensive range of solutions. However, one challenge faced is that technology is not being readily accepted by clients as they don’t always see the value and are just looking at the cost factor, she added. “What needs to be understood,” she added, “is the ROI will come after six months to a year, post the adoption of technology.”

Prabhu Ramachandran, Founder and CEO, Facilio

Sharing his experience, Hayes said: “We started adopting technology around 16 to 17 years ago and over the years.” We had all the activities in a single tool and would do quarterly reports with real-time reporting, he said. Highlighting the present situation on how the companies use dashboards to give cue into each of the properties throughout the world, he added, “Today, I can click into the property and drill down into the technician working on each property.” For the last three years, he said, we have got into measuring and using QR codes, Wi-Fi and real-time data, which enables us to monitor 250 properties across the Middle East region.

While the overall sentiment on the adoption of technology was positive, Mohamed highlighted that the main challenge was getting the buy-in from stakeholders. “There is a lot of technology available in the market; however, the challenge is in proving to the customer that it will be an added value,” he said. Elaborating, Sangeetha also pointed to a missing link in the adoption of technology in FM and said: “FM is a strategic player; however, what’s missing is that the client has to understand that adopting technology will be a value-add.” Echoing the thought was Deutschbein. She said: “FM is a big player, from both the client’s side and the service provider’s side.” The cost, she said, is always going to be a factor; however, we cannot cost cut for the sake of it, and standards cannot be compromised on.”

Pointing to personal experience, Mohamed added that in the year 2013, the company started off by connecting buildings to a system, which was remarkable. Utilising it, he said, helped remove BMS operators. The site, he added, is remotely monitored. As a result, he said, it also led to data collection. As if echoing Mohamed, Sangeetha said: “The adoption of technology has shifted focus to data collection, and I cannot stress enough on the importance of collecting data.” Elaborating on how it helps with any kind of analysis, she said, “Data helps in improving our services and will help study the ROI.”  Elaborating on how Marriott International has been outsourcing the technology within the scope of FM to different teams, Hayes said, “Even our sub-contractors make use of technology, and we train them on how to use the tool.”

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