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ASHRAE Epidemic Task Force releases updated Building Readiness Guide

ATLANTA, Georgia, 02 February 2021: With the performance of many HVAC systems in buildings still being evaluated, the ASHRAE Epidemic Task Force has updated its reopening guidance for HVAC systems to help mitigate the transmission of SARS-CoV-2, ASHRAE said through a Press release.

“The Building Readiness Guide includes additional information and clarifications to assist designers and commissioning providers in performing pre- or post-occupancy flush calculations to reduce the time and energy to clear spaces of contaminants between occupancy periods,” said Wade Conlan, Lead, ASHRAE Epidemic Task Force Building Readiness team. “New information includes the theory behind the use of equivalent outdoor air supply, method for calculating the performance of filters and air cleaners in series, and filter droplet nuclei efficiency that help evaluate the systems’ ability to flush the building.”

According to ASHRAE, major updates to the building readiness guidance include the following:

  • Pre- or post-flushing strategy methodology: The strategy has been updated to include the use of filter droplet nuclei efficiency, which is the overall efficiency of filter, based on viable virus particle sizes in the air, to assist in determining the impact of the filter on the recirculated air on the equivalent outdoor air. This allows the filter efficiency as a function of particle size, using ASHRAE Standard 52.2 test results, to be estimated based on the expected size distribution of virus-containing particles in the air. This calculation is currently based on Influenza A data and will be updated as peer-reviewed research becomes available for the distribution of particle sizes that contain a viable SARS-CoV-2 virus. Additionally, a chart has been added to help determine the time to achieve 90%, 95% or 99% contaminant reduction, if the equivalent outdoor air changes per hour is known.
  • Flushing time calculator: There is now a link to a view-only Google Sheet that can be downloaded for use, to help determine the available equivalent outdoor air changes and time to perform the flush. This sheet is based on a typical mixed AHU with filters, cooling coil, with potential for in-AHU air cleaner (UVC is noted in the example), and in-room air cleaning devices. Provided efficiencies of MERV-rated filters are based on the performance of over 200 actual filters from MERV 4 through 16, but the tool also allows users to enter custom characteristics for specific filters.
  • The sheet also calculates the filter droplet nuclei efficiency, based on the cited research but allows a user to adjust the anticipated distribution of virus, as desired. It also allows specification of the zone (room) air distribution effectiveness from ASHRAE Standard 62.1 to account for the impact of the HVAC system air delivery method on the degree of mixing. Default calculations assume perfect mixing. Finally, the tool allows for the target air changes to be adjusted if an owner wants to achieve a different per cent removal in lieu of the recommended 95%. 
  • Heating season guidance: The guide now includes data to consider for heating of outdoor air and the potential impact on pre-heat coils in systems.
  • Adjustments to align with Core Recommendations: The Core Recommendations were released in January 2021, and this guidance document needed to be updated to ensure that the information provided aligned with the intent of those recommendations. This included minimum outdoor air supply and filter efficiency requirements and their role in an equivalent outdoor air supply-based risk mitigation strategy.

According to ASHRAE, the guidance still addresses the tactical commissioning and systems analysis needed to develop a Building Readiness Plan, increased filtration, air cleaning strategies, domestic and plumbing water systems, and overall improvements to a system’s ability to mitigate virus transmission.

Empower signs contract to supply 30,000 RT of district cooling to wasl1 development

Ahmad Bin Shafar with H.E. Hesham Al Qassim during the signing ceremony

DUBAI, UAE, 26 January 2021: Emirates Central Cooling Systems Corporation (Empower), announced that it has signed an agreement with Dubai-based Wasl Asset Management Group, one of the largest real estate development and management companies in Dubai, to supply its mixed-use development, wasl1, with 30,000 Refrigeration Tons of district cooling.

Currently being carried out in several phases, the project is located in proximity to Dubai’s arterial Sheikh Zayed Road and Al Jafiliya Metro Station, with views of Zabeel Park. wasl1 will eventually feature 13 residential towers, of which the first phase, Park Gate Residences – comprising four towers and consisting of 746 residential units – has been completed and handed over. wasl1 will also include a range of entertainment facilities, children’s play areas, fully equipped gymnasiums, a multi-purpose hall, and a number of retail stores, restaurants and cafes.

In his comments, H.E. Hesham Al Qassim, CEO, Wasl Asset Management Group, said: “We chose Empower based on its tremendous capabilities in providing district cooling services, and we believe that its efficacy will contribute to strengthening the distinctive wasl1 project. The company’s advanced technologies support our mandate to contribute to the sustainable development of the emirate, while also ensuring the provision of the best cooling services to tenants, effectively enhancing the unique characteristics of wasl1 as a luxury residential project.”

According to Empower, providing a project of such magnitude with green district cooling services has prompted the corporation to direct AED 210 million in investments to finance the construction of seven energy transmission and storage stations (ETS), and to connect the project to the new district cooling plant that is currently underway in the Zabeel area. This, Empower said, would require the building of a subway under Sheikh Zayed Road, in addition to the expansion of the district cooling network.

Empower also said that the wasl1 project will be provided with district cooling services in a number of phases. By mid-2021, the first phase is expected to be completed, which would enable it to provide 3,351 RT of cooling and up to the total capacity of 30,000 RT – equivalent to half of the production of the new Zabeel plant, Empower said. Subsequently, the district cooling plant in the Dubai Financial Centre, currently under operation, will be connected to the new Zabeel plant, with a total load of 112,000 RT, Empower added. This comes in the framework of a proactive plan it has established to meet the needs of the existing as well as of the upcoming mega development projects launched in this vital area of Dubai, Empower further added.

Ahmad Bin Shafar, CEO, Empower, said: “We are working hard to serve the pioneering real estate projects, and we aim to provide all residential, commercial and entertainment facilities and sectors in the emirate of Dubai with district cooling services of sustainable international standards. This emphasizes the pioneering role Dubai plays with regards to reducing carbon emissions, which comes in line with the directives of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, may God protect him.”

Bin Shafar pointed out that adding the wasl1 project to Empower’s portfolio reflects the confidence real estate developers and dealers have in the reliable services it provides. He added that the association with the project also enhances its role in providing more quality cooling services with 50% less energy consumption, compared to the currently used traditional refrigeration services.

Empower reveals AED 901 million net profit in 2020

According to Empower, performance in a nutshell

  • Total cooling capacity crossed 1,640,000 RT, maintaining the position of the largest district cooling provider in the world
  • Over 140,000 customers
  • Total energy saving AED 3.4 billion in 2020
  • A total of 350.474 kilometres of district cooling networks

DUBAI, UAE, 20 January 2020: Emirates Central Cooling Systems Corporation (Empower) reported a net profit of AED 901 million, with a total revenue of AED 2.26 billion in 2020. Making the announcement through a Press release, Empower said its revenues grew by three per cent, with a net profit increase of 3.4% year-over-year (YoY). Empower added that the performance has been commendable, given the difficult economic conditions resulting from the global pandemic.

Commenting on Empower’s financial results at the annual press conference, Ahmad Bin Shafar, CEO, Empower, said: “2020 has been another successful year for Empower, with growth in its financial as well as operational performance, which is clearly evident from increase in revenues and net profit, additions in the number of district cooling plants, expansion of district cooling pipeline network, increase in customer base and the number of buildings connected with our district cooling services.”

According to Empower, the number of buildings it provides with its district cooling services exceeded 1,252, and the customer base has reached more than 140,000. The total cooling capacity has reached 1,640,000 Refrigeration Tons (RT) during 2020 that covered various projects, such as Deira Waterfront, Blue Waters, Jumeirah Group, Jumeirah Beach Residence, Dubai International Financial Centre, Business Bay, Dubai Healthcare City, Jumeirah Lake Towers, Palm Jumeirah, Discovery Gardens, Ibn Battuta Mall, Dubai Design District and International Media Production Zone, amongst others, the utility said.

“Empower has also saved a total of 1,312 MW of electricity worth AED 3.4 billion, as of the end of 2020,” Bin Shafar said.

On the sidelines of the press conference, Bin Shafar also said: “We are proud of our achievements in terms of increased number of district cooling plants that has reached 84 plants across Dubai, including the world’s first unmanned district cooling plant in Jumeirah Village Circle project, along with having the largest district cooling network.

“Empower is committed towards efficient utilization of energy resources and supporting its customers and real estate developers, by providing high-quality and eco-friendly district cooling services.”

Bin Shafar also stated that Empower had reduced its fuel surcharge rates by approximately 25%, effective December 1, 2020, in line with the initiative of the Dubai’s Supreme Council of Energy. 

He added: “We will continue our endeavors in 2021 to increase the number of district cooling plants and expand our district cooling network across Dubai.”

China eyes a larger MEA footprint

Ten air conditioners will be sold per second in the next 30 years, says Moan Abraham, Vice President and General Manager for Air Conditioning, Hisense Middle East, quoting a key figure in the International Energy Agency’s “The Future of Cooling” report. The report forecasted that the global air conditioner market will grow from 1.6 billion to 5.6 billion by 2050. For Abraham, while the figure offers tremendous potential, it also poses a challenge for HVAC manufacturers, stressing that if the industry does not opt for energy-efficient systems from now on, the scenario in 2050 could be quite challenging with regard to heavy consumption. Abraham believes Chinese manufacturers could be well positioned to address this growing demand, with regard to both scale and energy efficiency.

Based on customs data published by the Chinese government, Abraham says that China is already taking a big portion of the air conditioning business, globally and that the number continues to grow for all major players. Mark Wang, General Manager of International Sales, Chigo, says the overall growth of China’s HVAC industry is expected to be around five per cent. Abraham says that Hisense alone has been able to increase its export shares by 50% in the last three years.

To further underscore the scale of Chinese exports, Abraham says that in 2018 alone, around 50 million sets were exported from China. In 2019, Abraham says, it is expected that 4.14 million units will be exported to the Middle East, and 3.19 million units to Africa. “If China is exporting [around] 50 million sets, and the Middle East and Africa is taking around 7.5 million sets, that’s a significant portion that the region is accounting for,” he says.

Growing presence in Middle East and Africa

Abraham says that the Middle East and African markets have been showcasing greater appreciation for Chinese brands. Gleaning from Hisense’s own experience in the region, Abraham says that in the past, the company was largely an OEM player but that since it has been focusing on its own brand, Hisense has achieved a good market share in the last 3-4 years. This, Abraham says, is owing to several reasons. First, he points to the gradual shift in public opinion. “The quality perception of China-made products have changed today,” he says. “You have government entities specifying China-made products – this means confidence. Basically, the quality and performance of Chinese ACs and brands have been quite high-end in the last few years. People are now recognising that the quality is next to none.” Secondly, Abraham points to affordability owing to economies of scale. “It’s not about buying low-cost products,” he says. “The product is more affordable, so people can buy. Again, the purchasing power increases and the affordability has come.” Abraham also points to reliability, stressing that Chinese brands’ move to partner with notable local companies has enhanced after-sales and maintenance services. Lastly, Abraham stresses that China has the capability to manufacture in big volumes, which allows it to remain competitive in big markets.

Abraham says that this offers a good opportunity for Chinese brands, as the demand will continue to grow, not only globally, as per forecasts, but in the region, as well, owing to a reduction in lifecycle of air conditioners, especially in residential applications. This, he says, can be attributed to three main factors: “Number one, it is exposed to harsh environments. The AC is taking a big beating in terms of performance. Also, usage – people are looking for extreme cooling.” In this regard, Abraham says there is a need to enhance consumer awareness with regard to moderate temperatures setting. “People want a set-point temperature of 16 degrees C,” he says. “This is bad for health and energy consumption. Some countries are putting some regulations, especially in Egypt, which limited thermostat setting to 20 degrees C. If regulation comes, you need to limit temperature setting to a certain level, and you can increase the efficiency   and life of ACs.”

Another cause for the reduction in life of air conditioners, Abraham says, is the lack of skilled personnel handling the maintenance of AC equipment in residential units. The third bottleneck, Abraham says, is the cost of repair as well as the response time of relevant personnel in the event there is a need for product replacements. “In peak season in the GCC region, a new air conditioner can be installed in 24 hours,” he says. “But if you have complaint relating to compressor failure, you may have to wait for 2-3 days.”

Opportunities in emerging market: Spotlight on Iraq

Chinese manufacturers are showing increasing interest in Middle East and Africa; however, it is not solely owing to the potential pipeline of projects. The growing importance the countries in the region is placing on energy efficiency has also piqued the interest of Chinese brands, which have become well-versed in navigating increasingly stringent regulations in China. Abraham says that in China, the government has cracked down on the supply chain of components to ensure that products meet certain environmental standards in view of the country’s commitment to the Paris Accord, leading to a spike in cost of products, as companies need to maintain certain standards of production. Sharing his observations on trends in China, Wang adds that the VRF market is also continuing to grow at good rate, and the proportion of VRFs, compared to conventional systems, will increase. Abraham echoes this, saying that in China, VRF systems are being sold in the market like a consumer product and that there are quality training systems for those entering the service industry.

A number of Chinese companies are leveraging this experience to address shifting standards in the region. Wang says: “With the enactment of Saudi Arabia’s new SASO energy efficiency standard, Bahrain and Oman have successively issued energy efficiency regulations similar to SASO. Kuwait has also raised the T4 energy efficiency standard that is expected to be implemented in September 2019.” As customers pay more and more attention to energy saving, Wang says, designers and consultants will also take this aspect into consideration when selecting air-conditioning systems, especially in green projects and government tenders. “The technical threshold of products is the basic requirement,” Wang says. “We are actively responding by the timely launch of related products.”

Wang says that in addition to key markets, such as Saudi Arabia, Chigo is committed towards reinforcing its presence in markets such as Syria, Palestine and, particularly, Iraq. “The political situation in Iraq from 2017 to 2018 has gradually stabilised and reconstruction has started,” he says. Wang adds that although there are challenges in the country, it will not be enough to stall the momentum the Iraqi market is undergoing, adding that the local market is evolving into a promising VRF market. Abraham echoes this, saying that as Iraq continues to develop an increasingly stable government, it will look to provide its citizens with basic services that will require further infrastructure, such as housing. “Those will be good drivers for most of the suppliers,” Abraham says. “If you look at Iraq today, 95% of what is imported is from China, and Iraq is a tough environment in terms of climate, so quality should be at the high end in order to gain the market in Iraq.”

Abraham says that for the most part, the Iraq market provides an even playing field for most suppliers, but that the differentiating factor is the partner of choice. “Local partner distributors’ knowledge in the market and relationships will play an important part in the development,” he says.

Speaking with regard to the goals of Hisense, Abraham says that the company aims to be named one of the top three brands in the next five years in the air conditioning category. The company aims to do this, he says, by offering innovative products, energy-efficient solutions and focusing on customer satisfaction, in addition to ensuring product quality, cooling performance and reduced downtime, all which will help in the company’s efforts to gain further market share. This, he says, is part of a brand’s evolution and part of its unfolding global narrative as a Chinese manufacturer taking on the global market. “It’s a journey,” he says. “You cannot build the Great Wall of China wall in one day.”

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