Masthead - Climate Control Journal

‘Clean up indoor air, or else expect COVID to surge’

TROY, New York, 21 August 2021: An air quality engineer warned that the COVID-19 pandemic won’t end until Americans clean up the indoor air.

Jeremy McDonald

“With variants on the rise, all the talk this summer has been about vaccines,” said Jeremy McDonald, Vice President at New York-based firm, Guth DeConzo Consulting. “Now we’re hearing about masks again, which feels like a step back for most of us. But when it comes to preventing the spread of airborne viruses, like COVID-19, we also have to improve the quality of the air in our indoor spaces. As the seasons change, it seems like we’re going back to old, tired strategies that haven’t gotten us out of this mess. It’s time to listen to the engineers: It’s all about the air.”

Mc Donald on July 26 published an essay, titled ‘Moving Beyond COVID-19: It’s Time to Look at the Air We Breathe’, in which he argued that President Joe Biden’s ‘American Jobs Plan’ must include improvements to the indoor air quality (IAQ) infrastructure, if Americans are to finally beat the COVID-19 pandemic and improve defenses against future pandemics and common day-to-day air quality maladies. Toward the end of July, COVID-19 cases began to surge in parts of the United States, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revised its mask guidance to once again recommend that Americans wear masks indoors, even if vaccinated.

McDonald encouraged improvements to ventilation and the use of high-performance air filters and other air purification technologies, where appropriate. Buildings that have deferred maintenance and investment in modern HVAC may require more complicated and expensive solutions, he said.

“Although some buildings may require an expensive investment, we need to weigh this against the cost of our health and well-being,” McDonald wrote in his essay. “Certainly, when considering our health, fixing ‘sick’ buildings is a much better choice than fixing ‘sick’ people.”

Yet, McDonald said, there are plenty of low-cost or no-cost solutions that can drastically improve IAQ, such as cracking a window, which reduces the intensity and quantity of virus particles and their ability to spread to more people, using air purification technologies, and simply ensuring that buildings meet the spirit of building code requirements for minimal fresh air for buildings.

Saying that there is a historical precedent for this common sense strategy, McDonald noted in his essay: “In response to the Pandemic of 1918, when more than 20,000 New Yorkers died, ventilation was seen as one of the key attributes to protect residents from the devastation of the pandemic. Back then, New York City officials dictated that building heating systems were to be designed and sized to operate with all the windows open, since it was recognized that ventilation was key to purge the virus from indoor spaces. If it worked 100 years ago, it will work today.”

One of the main challenges in getting people to pay more attention to poor indoor air quality is that the problem is invisible, an issue McDonald commented on in an original cartoon he commissioned to get his point across. In the first panel of the cartoon, two fish swim in a bowl. One fish says, “I think the poor quality of the water is making us sick.” The other fish asks, “What’s water?” In the second panel, two office workers and an HVAC engineer stand near the same fishbowl. “Glad to be done with masks, sanitizers and social distancing forever!” says one office worker. “If we don’t improve our air quality in our buildings, we will keep getting sick in the future,” the engineer chimes in. “The air looks good to me,” says the other office worker. Beside her, one of the fish in the bowl is floating upside down with Xs for eyes, indicating it has died. The caption below the cartoon reads, “We don’t know who discovered water, but we’re pretty sure it wasn’t a fish,” which is a modern proverb attributed to various sources. That saying, McDonald asserted, sums up our own troubled relationship to air quality – because air is so fundamental to our existence, most of us don’t even think about it. But HVAC engineers think about air every day, all day, and it’s time to listen to them in the fight against airborne illness, he added.

“My frustration, which motivates me to write and speak out on the issue of air quality, is that our leaders are not getting it, and they aren’t listening to engineers,” McDonald said. “But the public health officials aren’t really talking about indoor air quality either, so a lot of politicians probably don’t want to go against the narrative.”

McDonald said that some of the anti-vaccine sentiments may stem from incomplete messaging that does not address indoor air quality. “Some of the resistance to masks and vaccines might be because people know in the back of their mind there’s something missing from the common messaging that is ringing hollow 18 months into this pandemic,” McDonald said. “We are constantly hearing, ‘Wash your hands, wear a mask and socially distance, where possible. We need to add simple, yet time-tested, ventilation strategies to our messaging, which we all know implicitly makes sense to folks from all political persuasions.” Perhaps with improved messaging from our leaders and initiatives to fix our broken HVAC systems, we can truly address this pandemic without arguing about the viability of masking and vaccines, he added.

McDonald said he is clear that vaccines are a key tool in beating this pandemic. But, without addressing the fundamental issue of indoor air quality, he said, we may be putting a “BAND-AID” on the current problem, missing out on the opportunity to improve public health for the long term.

AMCA introduces tools to aid transition to Fan Energy Index

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Illinois, 2 August 2021: AMCA International introduced tools to aid transition to the Fan Energy Index. The body did so against the backdrop of recent developments related to energy efficiency in the United States.

On July 28, the US Department of Energy (DOE) issued determinations that the 2019 edition of ANSI/ASHRAE/IES 90.1, Energy Standard for Buildings Except Low-Rise Residential Buildings, and the 2021 edition of the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) “will achieve greater energy efficiency in buildings subject to the code” and “will improve energy efficiency in residential buildings,” respectively. Upon publication of these affirmative determinations, the DOE said, states in the country must review and certify their building codes relative to ANSI/ASHRAE/IES 90.1-2019 and the 2021 IECC.

As states begin to examine and update their energy codes, some are adopting an earlier edition of ANSI/ASHRAE/IES 90.1 (2016 or 2013) or the IECC (2018 or 2015), AMCA said. In so doing, they are prolonging the use of fan efficiency grade (FEG) as the metric for efficiency provisions for commercial and industrial fans and blowers, AMCA said. FEG, which the DOE concluded in an as-yet-unfinished rulemaking is not an appropriate metric for a federal appliance/equipment regulation, was replaced by Fan Energy Index (FEI) for ANSI/ASHRAE/IES 90.1-2019 and the 2021 IECC, AMCA said, adding that it advises states adopting earlier editions of ANSI/ASHRAE/IES 90.1 and the IECC to “leapfrog” the outdated FEG metric to take advantage of the energy-saving, compliance-easing FEI.

For example, Florida, which on December 31 became the first state to adopt FEI when the seventh (2020) edition of Florida Building Code: Energy Conservation was published, adopted the 2018 IECC, but the 2021 IECC fan-efficiency provision, AMCA pointed out.

“Florida has set the example of how to leapfrog model-energy-code provisions to avoid prolonging the use of an outdated metric,” Aaron Gunzner, Senior Manager, Advocacy, AMCA International, said. “To help other states achieve the goal of phasing in the new FEI metric, AMCA International has, with permission from ASHRAE and the International Code Council, developed templates with exact strike-out/underline language.”

Additionally, to describe the rationale for and the benefits of changing metrics, AMCA said it recently updated its Advocacy Brief: New Fan Energy Index (FEI) Metric and Scope for Energy Codes, a document for code officials and others considering proposals to transition from FEG to FEI.

Formalized in ANSI/AMCA Standard 208-18, Calculation of the Fan Energy Index, FEI considers the effects of motors and drives, not just fans, and aids the right-sizing of fan systems for the conditions they will operate in, AMCA said. In addition to ANSI/ASHRAE/IES 90.1-2019 and the 2021 IECC, it added, FEI has replaced FEG in:

  • 2021 International Green Construction Code (IgCC)
  • ANSI/ASHRAE/ICC/USGBC/IES 189.1-2020, Standard for the Design of High-Performance Green Buildings Except Low-Rise Residential Buildings

AMCA recommended visiting www.amca.org/FEI, to download the templates and to view Advocacy Brief: New Fan Energy Index (FEI) Metric and Scope for Energy Codes. The microsite, AMCA said, additionally includes links to related codes and standards, technical articles and white papers, webinar recordings, and presentations.

ASHRAE opens registration for Building Performance Analysis Conference

ATLANTA, Georgia, 15 July 2021: ASHRAE opened registration for the 2021 ASHRAE Building Performance Analysis Conference, between November 10 and 12 in Denver, Colorado.

Making the announcement through a Press release, ASHRAE said it will be its first ever hybrid conference, where virtual attendees will have access to live sessions, participate in speaker Q&A as well as interact with virtual and in-person conference attendees. The theme of the conference, “Design and Operation for Resilient and Healthy Buildings,” focuses on the practices of energy modeling and building performance simulation using existing simulation tools, software development, and future simulation research and applications, ASHRAE said.

“The past year has brought forward new challenges for the design and operation of new and existing buildings, in particular challenges related to the health and well-being of occupants,” said John Bynum, Conference Chair. “This conference will provide an opportunity for building professionals across disciplines to share and learn about these topics and many others, as we continue to work towards a better built environment.”

According to ASHRAE, conference attendees will learn from more than 60 presentations by leading industry practitioners and academic researchers on topic such as machine learning, exascale computing, data visualization and zero-carbon initiatives, along with advanced techniques, innovative workflows and future trends in building performance modeling.

The conference will also feature the 7th annual ASHRAE LowDown Showdown modeling competition, ASHRAE said, adding that 10 teams, with members from across the globe, have signed on to compete in this year’s competition. Teams comprise building analysts, designers, architects, engineers and other participants. and will be responsible for creating the architectural design and a performance analysis model based on model building data, ASHRAE said. The teams may use any software, or a combination of software, to complete their projects. The 2021 competition will ask teams to expand their comfort zone and take on the challenges of a tropical climate with particular challenges for resiliency and “near net zero” design, ASHRAE said.

ASHRAE urged those interested in attending to visit ashrae.org/BuildPerform2021 and ashrae.org/2021lowdownshowdown.

 

Smart Farnek launches HITEK solution 4.0

DUBAI, UAE, 11 July 2021: UAE-based smart and green facilities management (FM) company, Farnek, today unveiled its new 24/7 command and control room, located in Farnek Village, the company’s new staff accommodation centre in Jebel Ali.

L-R: Markus Oberlin; Khaldun Aburok, Director of Business Development, Farnek; Javeria Aijaz; and H.E. Frank Eggmann

Making the announcement through a Press release, Farnek said that through its 5G and Wi-Fi 6-enabled, operational ‘nerve centre’, it will be able to take advantage of increased bandwidth, ultra-low latency and enhanced security, to connect assets from multiple sites, so that they can be centrally monitored and managed.

This, Farnek said, will allow it to rollout connected and transformative applications of technology that not only uplift the face of FM digitalisation but also offer enhanced efficiency. This is achieved through the concept of a digitally connected workforce and customers, to its in-house stream of technically advanced and cost-effective solutions, utilising the Internet of Things (IoT), Cloud, Machine Learning (ML) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) based technologies, amongst others, the company said.

Following a tour of Farnek Village and the inauguration of its command and control room, H.E. Frank Eggmann, Consul General of Switzerland to Dubai said: “I was particularly impressed with the innovative approach Farnek has taken by developing its own in-house ‘Swiss made’ technology. Equally impressive is the way this is being utilised, which will not only improve cost-efficiency but also has staff welfare and sustainability at its core. This is an excellent example of Swiss state-of-the-art technology at its very best.”

According to Farnek, beyond operational efficiencies and sustainability, its HITEK solution 4.0 will save its customers significant amounts of money. The company said it has estimated that it can save up to 17% in manpower costs after traditional FM operational management has been transferred to HITEK’s smart management.

In addition, through IoT sensors, there is also the massive benefit of predictive and proactive maintenance, which can reduce downtime and improve the lifecycle of assets, facilitating remote monitoring with a fully connected and mobile workforce, Farnek said.

Markus Oberlin, CEO, Farnek, said: “In the case of manhours, a centralised system can manage multiple sites, whereas operating a traditional Building Management System (BMS) could well require a series of operators in each building. In addition, they may not be experts in every aspect of facilities management and probably will not have the advantage of benchmarking property performance.”

So far, Farnek said, its in-house technology team has developed initiatives, such as a smart washroom, wearable technology, eProcurement, telematic solutions, facial recognition as well as benchmarking and forecasting software to make buildings more sustainable.

Oberlin said: “As the technical specifications of 5G continue to evolve and expand that will capture and encourage even more advanced IoT and AI applications, which could start to become a reality, next year. So, we want to be ready to capitalise on these market opportunities, just as soon as the technology and connectivity is available.

“It is certainly going to take remote FM work to a whole new elevated level, enabling technicians to carry out tasks in either virtual reality or augmented reality environments, which are absolutely ideal for training purposes as well.”

According to Farnek, standalone 5G deployment consists of user equipment – the RAN and NR interface – and the 5G core network, which relies on a service-based architecture framework with virtualised network functions. Network functions that usually operate on hardware, become virtualised and actually run as software, the company said.

Javeria Aijaz, Senior Director – Technology & Innovations, Farnek, said: “We have managed to develop our own 5G network infrastructure-based intelligent and connected platforms, which has its own cloud-native network core, which connects 5G New Radio (NR) technology, and non-standalone (NSA) infrastructures, which still partially rely on existing 4G LTE infrastructure.

“Until Etisalat and Du are able to build out the independent infrastructure needed for 5G, our approach uses a combination of 5G Radio Access Network (RAN), 5G NR interface, and existing LTE infrastructure and core network to provide a 5G-like experience.”

Carel signs agreement to acquire 51% of CFM Soğutma

BRUGINE, Padua, Italy, 10 May 2021: Carel Industries, on May 5, signed a binding agreement for the acquisition of 51% of CFM Soğutma ve Otomasyon A.Ş., a long-standing distributor and partner in Turkey as well as a provider of digital and on-field services and solutions dedicated to OEMs, contractors and end users in the Turkish HVACR market.

CFM’s workforce, based in its 6,500-square-metre Izmir facility, in Turkey, numbers 34, half of whom are part of the technical and engineering team, Carel said.

With major expertise in thermodynamics, mechanics, control and connectivity, CFM offers complete solutions, starting from system design and technical support, during the start-up phase of the plants, up to the remote monitoring and supervision service, Carel said. The offer, which is based on the proposal of the best brands and includes software development and customisation, customer training in its Academy as well as energy management services, allows CFM to stand out significantly, Carel said.

According to Carel, CFM has created a unique business model, demonstrated by its high rate of customer loyalty, its long-standing relationships with the country’s main retail chains and its particularly high profitability.

A peculiar feature of CFM is also that it invoices almost all its sales in euros, thereby protecting itself from fluctuations in the local currency, Carel pointed out. In 2020, CFM reported revenues of 14.5 million euros and EBITDA of five million euros, it said. It is expected that at the time of the closing of the operation the net financial position will be slightly positive, it pointed out.

Carel said the transaction is aligned with two of its key strategic directions: geographical expansion outside western Europe and the development of the services business – on-field and digital. The acquisition, the company said, will allow it to not only establish a direct presence in the important Turkish market and to have a solid platform for the development of its Middle East market but also to adopt a distinctive business model, characterised by a wide range of complementary services. The transaction will also allow it to further develop its potential in synergy with its hardware, IoT and thermodynamic competence, it said. After having established its success in the refrigeration sector, CFM, in fact, has extensive growth potential in air conditioning and humidification, it added.

The closing of the part-acquisition is expected by the end of July 2021 and is subject to obtaining the approval for the transaction from the local antitrust authorities, and meeting other conditions precedent that are characteristic of this type of agreement, Carel said. With this transaction, Carel said, it will take control of the Turkish company through the acquisition of 51% of the share capital of CFM, with an enterprise value of 23.1 million euros for the stake. The acquisition of the remaining 49% of CFM, the valuation of which is tied to the Turkish company’s future results, is governed by a cross-option mechanism between the parties, exercisable between 2024 and 2027, Carel said. This structure in which the current management is heavily involved in the company in the medium term, it added, ensures a complete alignment of interests during the integration period of CFM into CAREL.

BACnet International welcomes Netix Global as newest member

DUBAI, UAE; Atlanta, United States, 9 May 2021: BACnet International said Netix Global has become the latest company to join the BACnet community as a Gold member. Headquartered in Hoofdorp, in the Netherlands, Netix is a IoT- and AI-based advanced building automation systems provider, whose products and solutions include BAS/BMS, metering and energy savings, enterprise security and smart city integration.

“Netix is a fast-growing company that would continue to be associated with bespoke and globally accepted testing bodies like BACnet International,” said Sanjeevv Bhatia, CEO, Netix. “It gives customers and stakeholders the necessary confidence for ready acceptance, especially in newer markets.”

Netix said it joins more than 150 leading building automation suppliers as BACnet International members, supporting the promotion of BACnet as a global communications protocol. Andy McMillan, President and Managing Director, BACnet International, said: “Netix is a wonderful fit for the BACnet International community. They are taking advantage of new technologies to further enhance building automation capabilities in data analytics and energy management, which are critical to effectively and efficiently managing facilities in smart city solutions.”

Carrier launches Abound

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Florida, 27 April 2021: Carrier Global Corporation on April 26 launched Abound, which it described in a Press release as a new cloud-native platform, as part of its growing investment in digital solutions designed to give people confidence in the health and safety of their indoor environments. Abound is an open-technology platform that aggregates data from different systems and sensors and provides building owners, operators and occupants transparency into relevant and contextual insights about air quality, thermal comfort and other performance data, the company said.

“Abound will transform a building owner’s ability to optimize the indoor environment, boosting the confidence of each visitor and occupant,” said Dave Gitlin, Chairman & CEO, Carrier. “The access to real-time actionable data for indoor air quality and other building systems and sensors embodies the future of building health and performance for customers around the globe. With this launch, we are moving closer to establishing industry standards that will provide owners, operators and occupants greater confidence in their indoor spaces.”

According to Carrier, Abound is a cloud-native offering that uses advanced technology to make building environments more intelligent, efficient and responsive. It connects directly to existing building systems and sensors with no need for upgrades, retrofitting or replacements. And, unlike other building management platforms, Abound is designed to easily work with all systems regardless of manufacturer, to unlock and unite siloed data to provide more powerful, actionable insights, Carrier claimed. The platform can be rapidly installed and scaled and showcases data on a single pane of glass and via remote readings, the company added.

According to Carrier, a hallmark feature of the platform is the ability for building operators to benchmark building performance related to air quality, ventilation and humidity against the thresholds identified by certain air features within the WELL Building Standard (WELL) from the International WELL Building Institute, which works for achieving healthy buildings. Building owners will have the ability to display real-time information and messaging about a building’s health through the Abound application programming interface (API), which can be used to create digital wallboards and support mobile experiences, Carrier said.

“We’re proud that the thresholds in the Abound platform are based on the WELL Building Standard’s air quality features, helping Carrier to make something as invisible as air quality more visible and actionable,” said Rachel Hodgdon, IWBI’s President and CEO. “This platform will help streamline pathways for customers to measure, communicate and report their progress toward WELL Certification, advancing IWBI’s overall mission to advance people first places around the world.”

According to Carrier, Abound is currently being piloted across the United States, with customers in the commercial building, K-12 education and sports and entertainment industries, including Trust Park, home to the Atlanta Braves. It is also operating at Carrier’s world headquarters and building technology showcase, the Center for Intelligent Buildings in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.

“We are thrilled to participate in the pilot of the Abound platform to give fans a safer and more informed spectator experience,” said Jim Allen, Senior Vice President of Corporate and Premium Partnerships for the Atlanta Braves. “The visual displays strategically placed throughout the stadium will provide our guests a real-time look at how our systems are working together to improve air quality. Sports bring people together, and the game just isn’t the same without our incredible fans here at the ballpark and we’re excited to welcome them back.”

While a tool for building owners, Abound was designed with building occupants and the general public in mind, Carrier said. It will make the invisible – air quality – visible through a smart, simple interface, and using its API and responsive display generators, building owners can communicate building health strategies, health performance metrics or the live indoor air quality summary through in-building digital displays, mobile applications or existing digital experiences.

“The launch of Abound underscores Carrier’s leadership in digital innovation and ability to move quickly to exceed our customers’ needs,” said Bobby George, Senior Vice President & Chief Digital Officer, Carrier. “The platform came together in a fraction of a year, and I couldn’t be prouder of the team. Abound’s platform architecture was designed around open standards and modern cloud native technologies and can quickly adapt to a wide range of integration and connectivity and scaling needs. The platform is comprehensive and delivers value to our customers through the complete integration of software, hardware and digital analytics.”

Green Building Alliance, UN’s partners receive International Climate Initiative Award

PITTSBURGH, Pennsylvania, 21 April 2021: Green Building Alliance (GBA) announced an international collaboration led by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) to develop a USD 24 million project to improve the energy efficiency of the global building supply chain and its products to deliver high performance buildings. The International Climate Initiative (IKI) of the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety awarded this project, signaling the advancement of a planning phase and full proposal. The launch of the project was announced on April 21 by Elisabeth Winkelmeier-Becker at the UNECE’s 69th Commission meeting.

According to GBS, the award solidifies the Greater Pittsburgh region as a global leader in the expeditious innovation of technologies, products and training aimed at curbing carbon emissions and creating healthy, sustainable buildings. The project presents an opportunity to work with international leaders in the field to identify solutions and strategies, and then implement best practices for the Pittsburgh region. GBA said the IKI award, in conjunction with Pittsburgh’s designation as a UN International Center of Excellence on High Performance Building, confirms GBA as a leader in providing solutions to improve the built environment thereby positively impacting climate change, human health, social equity, and a thriving economy.

“Funding high-performance buildings and retrofitting existing buildings can rapidly reinvigorate local economies, supporting or creating quality jobs through the entire building supply chain while delivering on long-term quality of life for everyone,” said Scott Foster, Director of Sustainable Energy, UNECE, about this innovative work. “Given its size and its history both as a coal-mining and steel-making center and as an example of urban rebirth, Pittsburgh has a lot to offer the cities of the world in terms of its experience and know-how.”

GBA said it is eager to begin the important work. “It is an honor to play such an important role in the US commitment to climate and infrastructure and the need to rapidly transform the building industry,” said Jenna Cramer, Executive Director, GBA. “We have an opportunity to build upon our 28-year history of making Pittsburgh and the Western Pennsylvania region a leadership hub for green buildings and sustainable products. This project is part of our efforts with the Greater Pittsburgh International Center of Excellence, a public private partnership that uniquely positions organizations, researchers, companies, and governments to collectively problem-solve for our region’s future while also connecting on a global platform to share best practices and advance solutions.”

According to GBA, the building and construction sector plays a key role in addressing global issues, including significant emissions reductions, improved energy security and increased circular economy. The sector is integral to achieving the Paris Agreement goals, as it is responsible for approximately 40% of energy- and process-related emissions. The project kick-off will take place in May 2021. Led by UNECE, other partners include UN Environment, UN Development Programme (UNDP) offices in select countries, UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UN ESCAP), Passivhaus Institute (Germany), and the Technical University of Denmark. GBA is the only partner in the United States.

The Greater Pittsburgh Center of Excellence current partners include Allegheny County, City of Pittsburgh, Allegheny Conference on Community Development, PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, PJ Dick, Fourth Economy, Duquesne Light, Carnegie Mellon University, University of Pittsburgh, Duquesne University, Covestro, Partner4Work, Innovation Works, Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, other nonprofits, and professionals.

Johnson Controls releases 2021 Sustainability Report

CORK, Ireland, 10 April 2021: Johnson Controls on April 9 published its 2021 Sustainability Report, highlighting its new environmental, social and governance commitments and progress towards the company’s sustainability goals, the company said through a Press release.

George Oliver, Chairman and CEO, Johnson Controls, said: “At Johnson Controls, sustainability is our business. This year saw us continue to pioneer new and important paths to sustainability, including our issuance of a green bond in the U.S. capital markets – among the very first industrials to do so.

“We welcome and embrace the enhanced attention and urgency around tackling climate change and making gains across environmental, social and governance pillars. We are determined to strengthen and further build our culture of diversity and inclusion.

“Our bold new sustainability commitments demonstrate we are all-in to help drive healthy buildings, healthy people and a healthy planet for our employees, shareholders, customers and all of our stakeholders.”

According to Johnson Controls, highlights of the report include:

  • New ambitious sustainability commitments that outline the company’s priority to make positive changes in lowering its company footprint, such as achieving net zero carbon emissions before 2040.
  • Its first-ever Sustainability Report that includes and fully integrates its first-ever diversity and inclusion report, highlighting its D&I commitment, mission, vision, pillars and progress.
  • Its goal to double its customers’ emission reductions through implementation of its OpenBlue digitally enabled solutions by 2030.
  • Its intention to double the representation of women leaders globally and minority leaders in the United States over the next five years.
  • Its green financing initiatives, including a green bond – one of the first industrial companies to issue a green bond in U.S. debt capital markets – and a senior revolving credit facility tied to specific sustainability metrics
  • Executive compensation that is linked to sustainability and diversity performance goals
  • The appointment of the company’s first Chief Sustainability Officer and the formation of a Governance and Sustainability board of directors’ committee
  • Performance contracting projects that have helped its customers avoid more than 30.6 million metric tons CO2e and save USD 6.6 billion through energy and operational savings since January 2000.
  • Greenhouse gas emissions intensity reduction of more than 70% since 2002.
  • Our commitment to The Climate Pledge, co-founded by Amazon and Global Optimism, to reach net-zero

ASHRAE announces call for abstracts for Winter Conference

ATLANTA, Georgia, 26 March 2021: Abstracts are now being accepted for the 2022 ASHRAE Winter Conference,  to be held from January 29 to February 2, 2022 at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas, Nevada, ASHRAE said through a Press release.

With an eye on future resources, the conference seeks to present papers and programs that cover sustainable use of energy and water, reduction of waste and improved Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ), while addressing other challenges and opportunities in facilities, applications and processes, ASHRAE said.

“It is estimated that the world population will grow from eight billion now to around nine billion in 2050; global GDP is expected to stabilize at +2%/year,” said Raul Simonetti, Chair, 2022 Conference. “This will increase the need for food, energy and other resources to support a growing population in the coming future. The 2022 Virtual Winter Conference will provide an opportunity to examine holistically – that is, at 360° – what we do and the way we do it in order to minimize the impact on our planet.”

According to ASHRAE, the following tracks are developed to support the conference theme, ‘Holism and Perspectives towards Decarbonization’…

  • Buildings use a large share of a country’s final energy, particularly for heating, cooling and various services. Papers in the Buildings at 360°” track will focus on explaining methods, equipment, systems and solutions to satisfy occupants’ needs, to guarantee buildings’ performances and resilience, and to save resources like energy and water.
  • Energy is omnipresent in our daily lives in ways like electricity for appliances or heat and cooling for industrial processes. The integration of various energy sources, processes and transportation allows us to better exploit the available energy and reduce waste. The “Energy System Integration” track will explore renewables, fossil fuels, grid integration, aggregation, demand-side flexibility, smart devices, IoT, synthetic hydrogen and synthetic fuels, CCUS and electrification.
  • Indoor environment is essential for our well-being and productivity, but is often regulated differently in various parts of the world due to local conditions, circumstances, history and traditions. Papers that explain local norms and trends with an eye on energy usage would fit in the “Environmental Health and IEQ in the International Arena” track.
  • The “HVAC for Industrial and Commercial Purposes” track will focus on papers that examine the challenges and opportunities in improving energy efficiency of commercial and industrial facilities and transferring lessons learned to other types of facilities.
  • Refrigerants play an important role in maximizing performances and minimizing direct and indirect GHG emissions. The “Refrigerants, Safety and Performance” track will focus on papers that present advancements and developments about flammability of refrigerants that can reduce the direct emissions, but that may have safety, regulatory and performance issues when deployed on the field.
  • The “Refrigerants and Refrigeration” track will explore refrigeration systems, which generate and use cold for a range of processes, from food preparation and conservation to vaccine preservation, and from long-term protection of fragile ancient inks of historical documents to others.
  • The “HVAC&R Systems and Equipment” track will focus on the development of new systems and equipment, improvements to existing systems and equipment and the proper application and operation of systems and equipment.
  • The “Fundamentals and Applications” track will provide opportunities for papers of varying levels across a large topic base. Concepts, design elements and shared experiences for theoretical and applied concepts of HVAC&R design are included.

According to ASHRAE, Abstracts (400 words or less) are due April 5, 2021. If accepted, final conference papers (eight pages, maximum) are due July 12, 2021.

In addition, technical papers (complete 30-page maximum papers) are also due March 29, 2021, ASHRAE said, adding that accepted conference papers and technical papers are published in ASHRAE Transactions, cited in abstracting indexes and considered for Science and Technology for the Built Environment, ASHRAE’s research journal.

For more information on the call for papers and the 2022 ASHRAE Winter Conference, ASHRAE urged those interested to visit https://ashrae.org/2022Winter.

In conjunction with the ASHRAE Winter Conference is the 2022 AHR Expo, to be held from January 31 to February 2, 2022, at the Las Vegas Convention Center. For more information on the 2022 AHR Expo, ASHRAE urged those interested to visit https://www.ahrexpo.com/.

ASHRAE, IAPMO to co-publish water efficiency document

ATLANTA, Georgia, 18 March 2021: ASHRAE and the International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials (IAMPO) have announced an agreement to co-publish a document to address water efficiency in buildings.

The document will combine ASHRAE 191P,  Standard for the Efficient Use of Water in Building Mechanical Systems, along with WE-Stand™, IAPMO’s Water Efficiency and Sanitation Standard, to offer complementary water efficiency guidance and references in one publication, ASHRAE said. ASHRAE 191P provides minimum requirements for the design of building mechanical systems that limit the volume of water required to operate HVAC systems, ASHRAE said. WE-Stand™ focuses on achieving safe and efficient water use in both residential and non-residential buildings, ASHRAE added.

“Water efficiency and energy conservation are major considerations in the design and operation of HVAC systems in high performance buildings,” said 2020-21 ASHRAE President Charles E. Gulledge III, P.E. “Escalating costs and concerns regarding availability have brought much needed attention to the issue of water use in the built environment. We are pleased to collaborate with IAPMO to provide a balanced resource to the water-energy nexus as the demand for sustainable strategies grow.”

Dan Cole, Senior Director of Technical Services and WE-Stand™ Secretariat, said: “We’re excited to coordinate our development efforts on WE-Stand™ with ASHRAE’s 191P Committee. With the development cycle for 2020 now finalized, we will look forward to ensuring that both standards eliminate any conflicts toward achieving high levels of water efficiency for both mechanical and premise plumbing systems.”

According to ASHRAE, the co-published document will be available upon the conclusion of the 2023 WE-Stand™ development process, which is on a three-year cycle.

The Crux of building performance

Buildings often do not perform in an optimal and efficient way despite significant investment during design and construction. The reasons can be wide and varied, and there is a certain inevitability that issues during construction will arise, and decisions will be made that could ultimately affect the long-term performance of the building. Building Commissioning, when utilised correctly, is a systematic quality assurance process. It increases the likelihood of buildings operating in line with their design intent, by verifying and documenting the fact that building services are designed, installed, tested and are operating in line with the Owners Project Requirements (OPR). This is primarily done with detailed planning, organisation, coordination and control of all commissioning activities.

Martin Williamson

Conversely, a building that is not operating in line with project requirements can be inefficient from an energy standpoint, financially uneconomical or suffering from poor indoor environmental quality (IEQ), of which indoor air quality (IAQ) is a significant part. This scenario is particularly prominent across the GCC region, where commissioning is largely misunderstood, under-utilised or is carried out to a low standard. A study by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL), based on a database of 643 buildings across approximately 100 million square feet of floor space, found the main causes of energy inefficiency in commercial buildings to be ductwork leakage, HVAC systems running and lights left on when spaces are unoccupied, ventilation systems incorrectly balanced, dampers not working and incorrect controls set-up, with an estimated 94.6 billion kilowatt hours annually (BkWh/year) wasted across the top 13 of 100 issues identified. Ductwork leakage was responsible for the greatest energy inefficiency, accounting for 28.6 BkWh/year alone, which has been seen to be a common issue across construction projects in the GCC region.

In addition to energy savings, correcting these issues would likely improve the indoor environment, as the identified issues would have an expected impact on heating and cooling, ventilation of spaces, and potential for drafts and noise. Identifying and correcting these commonly found issues should lead to an overall increase in occupant satisfaction. Commissioning is arguably the most cost-effective process for short-term and long-term advantages to building owners, facility managers and building occupants. However, there are many projects in the GCC region, where commissioning is not utilised or is carried out to a low standard. To put this in perspective, the LBNL study found the median cost for commissioning a new building accounted for 0.4% of the total construction cost. The data received demonstrates a significant 13% energy saving in new buildings, should commissioning and management be implemented effectively. On this basis, the client’s ROI would be 4.2 years.

The purpose of commissioning in new buildings is to ensure the performance requirements of the building owners’ objectives are achieved, making sure the building is operating as efficiently as it can at the time of handover. Commissioning in existing buildings is to validate whether the building is operating efficiently and to identify performance gaps, inefficiencies and improvements needed to return it to an efficient operational condition.

There are several names for commissioning in existing buildings, namely Re-Commissioning, Retro Commissioning and Continuous Commissioning. Retro Commissioning is utilised in buildings where no commissioning was previously performed. Re-Commissioning is typically carried out every 5-10 years and completed when the building use has changed, internal fit-outs completed or equipment and components in the systems are upgraded. Continuous Commissioning is based on frequently monitoring the building use, diagnosing improvements and fine-tuning the building performance.

Re-Commissioning and Continuous Commissioning are beneficial, as they allow flexibility for changing the use of internal spaces without affecting the building’s performance. The way a building is used and operated is often different from the condition predicted during design stage, where assumptions are made for occupant density, temperature set-points, control schedules and operation of HVAC systems. A major factor is occupant behaviour, which is difficult to predict and cannot be known at the time of design. The use of the building compared to the predicted design is monitored and changes made to fine-tune the system performance. A study by Wang L, et al (Uncertainties in energy consumption introduced by building operations and weather for a medium-size office building) showed poor practice in building operation can result in an increase in energy use of 49-79%, and good practice can reduce energy consumption by 15-29%.

Commissioning as a process has become more prevalent in the GCC region in recent years, with several high-profile developers, project management companies and consultants specifying this as a requirement. As an example of implementing commissioning in the GCC region, the Dubai Green Building Regulations and Specifications (DGBR) outlines requirements for commissioning in new as well as existing buildings, highlighting the value of commissioning in securing a green future for Dubai.

To take this a step further, the regulations in the GCC region could outline the requirement of commissioning as a process by referencing publications such as CIBSE Commissioning Code M – Commissioning Management, BSRIA Model Commissioning Plan or ASHRAE Standard 202 – Commissioning Process for Buildings and Systems, which are useful publications for capturing the commissioning process throughout the lifecycle of a building.

To enhance this, it would be beneficial to specify requirements of who can complete the commissioning and management, and the level of training and experience needed. Commissioning is often completed by an independent company, whose role is to ensure compliance with the OPR; the impartial nature is part of the value of commissioning. Unless regulations specify commissioning must be independent, this allows ‘in-house’ commissioning to be completed, which is not unbiased and, citing from experience, often results in ‘covering up’ issues identified instead of resolving them.

In comparison to the UK Building Regulations, commissioning of building services is a key requirement identified, and for buildings to conform to the energy efficiency requirements, CIBSE and BSRIA methodology are to be followed, and the process should be overseen by someone suitably qualified by relevant training or experience. The regulations cite membership of the Commissioning Specialists Association (CSA), the Commissioning Group of the Building and Engineering Services Association (B&ES) and Lighting Industry Commissioning Scheme as a way of demonstrating this.

The writer is Senior Commissioning Manager, AESG, and Committee Member, Commissioning Specialists Association (GCC). He may be reached at m.williamson@aesg-me.com

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.

JCI unveils sustainability commitments

CORK, Ireland, 29 January 2021: Johnson Controls (JCI) announced new environmental, social and governance (ESG) commitments, science-based targets as well as a net-zero-carbon pledge to support a healthy, more sustainable planet over the next two decades. Making the announcement through a Press release, the company said its emissions reduction drive and that of its customers will be powered by its OpenBlue technologies and innovations, which leverage big data and artificial intelligence to optimise buildings sustainability.

“Sustainability is at the heart of our business and fundamental to everything that we do as a company,” said George Oliver, Chairman and CEO, Johnson Controls. “Today’s announcement reinforces our continued commitment to developing best-in-class climate solutions, and OpenBlue will empower our customers to streamline building operations and uncover energy efficiencies that will help meet their environmental goals. We continue to make sustainability a top priority for the company, our customers and our suppliers, and have set ambitious goals that will drive significant improvements in carbon emissions.”

The launch of the new commitments, the company said, will enable it to deliver quantifiable efforts to reduce carbon emissions, drive climate-focused innovation and work closely with customers and suppliers to meet sustainability goals as well as measurable impact against its three key OpenBlue healthy building pillars: healthy people, healthy places and a healthy planet. These commitments, it added, are:

Environmental Sustainability Commitments:

  • Set science-based targets consistent with the most ambitious 1.5 degrees C Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change scenario
  • Reduce Johnson Controls’ operational emissions by 55% and reduce customers’ emissions by 16% before 2030
  • Achieve net-zero-carbon emissions before 2040, in line with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Race to Zero and Business Ambition for 1.5 degrees C criteria
  • Invest 75% of new product development R&D in climate-related innovation to develop sustainable products and services
  • Achieve 100% renewable electricity usage globally by 2040

Customer and supply chain commitments:

  • Double annual avoided emissions by 2030 through customer use of Johnson Controls’ OpenBlue digitally enabled products and services
  • Create a supplier sustainability council with cohorts of suppliers, and their tier-one suppliers, and provide suppliers with training on sustainability best practices and OpenBlue digital tools in order to meet ambitious, public sustainability goals
  • Weight sustainability equal to other key metrics in supplier performance evaluations and provide a preference for suppliers with excellent sustainability ratings

Social and Governance Sustainability Commitments:

  • Intends to double the representation of women leaders globally and minority leaders in the United States within five years
  • Launch an initiative to educate the next generation of diverse sustainable building industry leaders, in partnership with Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs)
  • Include sustainability and diversity goals in senior leaders’ performance assessments, which are linked to executive compensation to drive accountability
  • Launch an initiative focused on underserved markets and increase Johnson Controls’ spend with women- and minority-owned businesses

Katie McGinty, Vice President & Chief Sustainability, Government and Regulatory Affairs Officer, JCI, said: “Our commitments reinforce the urgency to make positive changes that will improve the health of our planet, and we believe we are uniquely positioned to help customers and suppliers achieve their sustainability goals, in addition to our own. We are excited to step up the role we play and will continue to innovate and uncover new pathways to meet our goals which will contribute to healthier people, healthier places and a healthier planet.”

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.”

Building for the “new normal”

As the world continues to grapple with an ever-shifting economic landscape, owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, stakeholders in the building sector across the GCC region have observed how the pandemic has triggered an evaluation and reassessment of priorities. Ashok Jha, Head FM and Retrofit Projects, Universal Voltas, points out that the unprecedented disruption caused by COVID-19 has prompted many organisations to take actions they have been putting off for some time, including launching new digital services and evolving their business models, enabling greater flexibility in their working and implementing cost optimisation measures.

However, Jha says, perhaps the most notable trend would be the move towards a greater number of retrofit projects in the region. “Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the oil prices plummeted to one of the lowest levels and government revenues went down in the GCC region,” he says. “This has led to reduced spending across all sectors, including new construction, with the current market seeing greater push towards shallow retrofitting, deep retrofitting, energy conservation and reducing the building carbon footprint in the existing buildings to make them more sustainable.” Jha says that since the number of existing buildings in Oman, Kuwait and the UAE is very high compared to new buildings, there was also a need to address the physical deterioration of the buildings, due to functional and economic obsolescence, and to make them more sustainable. “Because of this, there is a surge in demand for the retrofitting of the existing buildings across the GCC region,” he says (see sidebar).

Andrea Di Gregorio, Executive Director, Reem, Ras Al Khaimah Municipality, also believes the region is poised to see a strong pipeline of retrofit projects. “More focus is being put in refurbishing existing buildings, to bring them up-to-speed with the latest best practices in sustainability,” he says. “We see an increase in interest from building owners in retrofit activities, and we expect this interest to further increase throughout 2021 and in the coming years.”

Energy efficiency and sustainability 

Another major driver for retrofits is the move towards energy efficient and sustainable practices, which has long been heralded by experts in the sector. Jha points out that because of the detrimental impact of buildings on the environment, with occupied buildings and the construction sector accounting for 36% of the global energy consumption and nearly 40% of total direct and indirect CO2 emissions according to International Energy Agency (IEA), the UAE has begun to actively transition into smart and sustainable cities, which has turned the focus on the energy efficiency of the buildings, specifically existing ones. 

In addition to its impact on overall sustainability efforts, much of the move can be attributed to growing awareness on return of investment in terms of reduced operational cost. As Jha points out, retrofitting primarily refers to the measures being taken to replace legacy energy and utility systems with new and energy-efficient technologies. “These technologies not only reduce energy consumption and decrease carbon emissions but also lower maintenance costs, improve safety, enhance productivity, boost property valuations and also prolong the useful life of the assets and the building as a whole,” he says. “In a nutshell, we can say that OPEX of the building reduces and the asset value increases. Hence, it is becoming important day by day to retrofit buildings to not only make them more sustainable for the future but also to derive economical value by reducing the operational cost and, in turn, optimise the rentals and make them more lucrative for the tenants.”

Weighing in, Di Gregorio says that sustainable buildings often result in lower life cycle cost of the building itself. “If sustainability features are carefully selected, operational savings – in terms of energy and water usage and equipment maintenance – typically exceed any incremental investments that those features require,” he says. “For this reason, in a perfect market, where developers are able to fairly monetise their investments in higher quality buildings, we would expect for tenants any rent premiums for more sustainable buildings to be exceeded by the value of operational savings.”

Jha adds that as energy prices continue to rise, the relative benefits of energy efficiency will become increasingly important, and this is leading to a huge surge in demand for equipment, such as Smart LED lights and motion sensors, air curtains and FAHUs, energy-efficient AHUs, FCUs or split units and VAV systems. This has also led to greater demand for water usage reduction through the use of low-flow fixtures, sensors, waterless urinals and low-flush WCs, and also for photovoltaic panels on rooftops to generate electricity from the solar power, among other solutions. 

A renewed focus on IAQ 

While the return on investment (ROI) from retrofitting for energy efficiency is becoming clear, stakeholders are hopeful that the new wave of retrofits would also accommodate enhancements of indoor air quality (IAQ), which has been typically overlooked over the past years. Di Gregorio says that he believes this would be the case. “There is increasing interest in IAQ, partly driven by COVID-19 concerns,” he says. “Some awareness and technical barriers are there; nonetheless we foresee development in this area in the future.”

Jha shares a similar opinion. He says: “Fear of pandemic is looming large in the minds of the people, and therefore, while carrying out the retrofitting of their buildings, owners are ensuring that retrofit projects also take into consideration IAQ of the buildings, where people are currently spending more than 90% of their time and also to reduce the chances of contamination through virus, bacteria, moulds and fungi.”

Di Gregorio says there is a lot of focus on safety and security from building owners, particularly in what concerns disinfection of common areas. “This sometimes adds to other measures, like filtration, turning into improved air quality,” he says. Jha adds that some of the measures that building owners are taking include Demand Control Ventilation through C02 sensors, fitting volume control dampers, ultraviolet lamps in AHUs, ultraviolet germicide irradiation and MERV 13/14 filters. He further adds that there has been an increase in the use of humidifiers and dehumidifiers to maintain humidity in the range of 40-60%, where the microbial and fungal growth is minimal.

Jha also says that the majority of the offices are allowing their staff to work from home and that people are spending more than 90% of their time indoors. “This further necessitates that apt measures are taken by the occupants to ensure proper lux levels, ergonomics and IAQ, as these will have a profound impact on their health and wellbeing and, in turn, impact their productivity,” he says. “Hence, there cannot be a better time than now to address the Indoor Environment Quality (IEQ) issues, if any.” Jha says these are the factors driving a lot of investment being done by the property owners in the built-environment to retrofit their buildings to ensure proper IAQ against the traditional retrofit, where emphasis was mainly towards energy efficiency.

Making a case for retrofits 

Keeping in mind the tangible and intangible benefits of retrofitting, Di Gregorio believes there is more than enough evidence to drive building owners to invest in such initiatives. “If building owners are not thinking about retrofits, they definitely should!” he says. “Retrofit projects tend to have very favourable returns. We are observing that for comprehensive retrofits of commercial buildings in Ras Al Khaimah, the payback time is 3-5 years. And the contracting standards that are being adopted often provide forms of guarantees for the investor on those returns.”

Jha, agreeing, says that in spite of the change in the occupancy profile of buildings, property owners must continue to retrofit within the built-environment. “Retrofitting of existing buildings offers tremendous opportunities for improving asset performance in terms of utilities,” he says. “Retrofitting also offers a potential upside in the overall performance of the building through improved energy efficiency, increased staff productivity, reduced maintenance costs, and better thermal comfort.” Jha believes that such key drivers should serve as a motivation and incentive for building owners, who are on the fence about investing in retrofit projects.

A complete 180

In view of the shifting political landscape, how will the new administration affect the country’s commitment to climate change mitigation?

It’s going to be a complete 180 from the [Donald] Trump administration. In [Joe] Biden’s plan, he mentions “a historic investment” in upgrading four million commercial buildings to return almost a quarter of the savings from retrofits to cash-strapped state and local governments. Specifically, it says that he will “mobilize a trained and skilled American workforce to manufacture, install, service and maintain high-efficiency LED lighting, electric appliances, and advanced heating and cooling systems that run cleaner and less costly”. 

Given our focus on energy savings, I think that this will be great for business as well as for building owners. Some suggest that large rebates may be involved to directly incentivise businesses and make it affordable to pursue these upgrades. 

That being said, although the Trump administration was not at all focused on energy conservation, I found that individual building owners and managers were still pursuing these measures during the Trump administration. Most organisations in the US are interested in conserving energy and saving money. With government focus and incentives, it will just accelerate the demand.

In view of COVID-19, do you see a greater uptake of IAQ equipment throughout the country? 

Yes, for sure. However, these things come with a cost, and with COVID destroying the economy, there is going to have to be some kind of funding or incentives given to get these types of retrofits in place. I will give you an example. Two of our clients in the US requested ultraviolet lighting proposals to be retrofitted into their air handlers and FCUs. We put together the proposals and delivered them; however, neither has been approved yet due to the difficulties these buildings are facing financially due to delinquent tenant rent payments and occupancy.

Another interesting fact is that most of these IAQ retrofits are not intended to deliver energy savings. That is another hurdle to getting these projects approved. One last point – and I don’t think this is limited to the US – customers in the UAE have also asked for ultraviolet lighting to be installed, and it is still difficult to get the approval here, for the same reasons mentioned earlier.

Has there been a heavier-than-usual concentration on the air side of things from building owners, tenants and manufacturers?

The EPA has recommended that guidance provided by the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) for managing IAQ during the current pandemic be followed. ASHRAE’s statement is as follows: “Transmission of SARS-CoV-2 through the air is sufficiently likely that airborne exposure to the virus should be controlled. Changes to building operations, including the operation of heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning systems, can reduce airborne exposures.”

The two solutions we have seen implemented in the buildings we service in the USA are AHU filter upgrades and increasing the intake of outside air into the building. Both of these changes are very effective and relatively easy to implement as well as low cost.

How has the change in occupancy profile thrown everything into a state of chaos in terms of commercial and residential property requirements? Will this be a driving force towards more retrofit projects? 

In terms of energy conservation measures, this has thrown everything into a state of chaos. One, the commercial buildings are hardly occupied, which has led to energy bills dropping dramatically. However, with less occupancy comes less rent, thus less money to invest in retrofit projects. In addition, building owners, who are still looking for energy savings, are hesitant to move forward, because they are not sure if and when tenants will be returning to the buildings, so to be honest, unless it’s a well-funded customer, this could actually slow the conservation efforts.

Residential buildings face the same issue. People are leaving the dense, populated cities, preferring the suburbs right now, leaving residential multi-family buildings unoccupied and no rents being paid. Until we get herd immunity with the vaccine, and people are comfortable returning to the cities to work and live, this will continue to be challenging.

How have these trends potentially influenced building owners? 

As I stated earlier, most building owners are hesitant even if they want to move forward on new projects, given the current situation. However, some forward thinkers, with ability and the confidence that things will return to normal, are taking this time to invest in conservation efforts, so that when the buildings are occupied, they can take advantage of the maximum savings.

Have there been efforts to retrofit among specialised facilities such as healthcare? 

At the moment, it is difficult to even get a meeting with a healthcare facility in the US. They are overwhelmed and have overcapacity with COVID patients and are focused on saving lives before anything else. Their priority right now is the conservation of life.

Has the pandemic finally trained the spotlight on the importance of having a balance between energy efficiency and IAQ? 

I think that yes, people will be investing in IAQ, or at least investigating their options, especially healthcare facilities and the like. However, in my experience, to be honest, it’s a tough sale, unless there’s a Return on Investment (ROI) in the project. Having said that, UV lighting does have some energy-saving benefits, so maybe a combination of IAQ and energy savings should be highlighted to the building owners in the presentation of these retrofit solutions.

Retrofitting in Kuwait, Oman and the UAE

Ashok Jha

COVID-19 has had a significant adverse impact on organisations, people’s health, their livelihoods and the economy at large in the GCC region countries, says Ashok Jha, Head, FM & Retrofit Projects, Universal Voltas LLC. However, Jha is quick to point out that while the duration and severity of COVID-19’s impact on economies and sectors will undoubtedly vary, companies and governments in the GCC region have done well to set in motion a “look ahead, anticipate, innovate and adjust” roadmap, which has led the construction sector to focus on energy optimisation and retrofitting in existing buildings, which is a key to sustainable construction.

 

Oman 

Citing figures from Global Data, a leading data and analytics company, Jha says that Oman’s construction industry contracted sharply in 2020, plummeting by nearly around -10.3%. “The industry is struggling with challenges presented by the COVID-19 outbreak, low oil prices, and the impact of sovereign credit rating downgrades,” he says. Further compounding the downside risks to the outlook for the industry, the Omani Government has had to rationalise spending.”

Jha adds that given the limited prospects for the government to boost investment in infrastructure and other investment projects, a recovery in the construction sector is expected to be very slow. “Global Data currently expects the construction industry to fall further in 2021, with output contracting by -5.8%,” he says. “The fiscal plan by the Oman Government is intended to reduce public debt, increase the state’s reserves, and diversify revenue away from the oil sector.”

Owing to these factors, Jha believes that new construction spend will be very minimal, and more impetus will be on the retrofitting, deep retrofitting, fit-outs and energy performance optimisation in the built-environment in Oman.

Kuwait

Kuwait has faced similar challenges, Jha says, adding that the construction market shrunk in the year 2020 at about -9.5% approximately, as per Global Data. “The construction industry is struggling with the challenges presented by the outbreak of COVID-19, low oil prices and the impact of sovereign credit rating downgrades,” he says. “Because of this, focus is more towards existing buildings in Kuwait.”

Jha adds that within the built-environment in Kuwait, residential buildings constitute around 81%, commercial buildings are 11%, whereas government buildings constitute four per cent; the remaining four per cent includes commercial, industrial, agricultural and services. “Also, Kuwait has one of the highest per capita electricity consumption and carbon footprint globally, which further necessitates the retrofitting of the buildings to make them more sustainable,” he says. “All the above factors, along with the economic strain, is forcing Kuwait to focus on energy conservation, deep retrofitting, retrofitting and fit-outs in the built-environment with a very minimal spending on new construction.”

UAE

Sharing observations on the UAE market, in particular, Jha says that the COVID-19 outbreak, coupled with low oil prices, has led the construction output in the UAE to contract by nearly 4.8% in 2020, but that a rebound is expected in 2021, as per Global Data. “New project opportunities are expected to be minimal in the coming quarters, as the government is consolidating its widening fiscal debt and COVID-19-related force majeure,” he said. “Over the medium- to longer-term, government investment will remain focused on upgrading physical infrastructure and reforming the financing and regulatory environment.”

Jha adds that the UAE has set high targets for building retrofit, which are reflected in the UAE Energy Strategy 2050 and the Dubai Integrated Energy Strategy. “The latter targets an overall 30% reduction in energy and water use by 2030,” he says. “To support this, Etihad ESCO aims to retrofit 30,000 buildings in the next 10 years and generate 1.68TWh energy savings and around 5.64 BIG of water savings by year 2030.”

ASHRAE Learning Institute opens registration for Spring online courses

ATLANTA, Georgia, 8 January 2021: ASHRAE Learning Institute announced that registration is open for its 2021 Spring online instructor-led course series. The 16 online offerings, including eight new courses, run from January through June, the Institute said

 A new course, ‘Reopening Commercial Buildings: Evaluating Your HVAC System’s Readiness to Mitigate the Spread of SARS-CoV-2’, taking place on January 27, will expound the online ASHRAE COVID-19 details for reopening buildings and the Building Readiness Plan for HVAC systems, the Institute said. The course will help reiterate mitigation strategies available and understand specific buildings arrangements, the Institute added.

 The course, ‘Health Impacts of Indoor Air Extraction, Ventilation, and Filtration – Same or Different’, scheduled for February 17, the Institute said, will cover the future design of forced air ventilation systems and the most cost-effective HVAC operational changes and system modifications to improve existing indoor environments in reducing the spread of viruses.

 The course, ‘Hospital HVAC – Infection Mitigation, Comfort, Performance’, scheduled for February 23, will address the role of HVAC systems in helping to reduce Hospital Associated Infections (HAI), explaining airborne versus contact transmission, the Institute said. This course will describe the why and how filtration, air patterns, air changes, dilution, temperature, humidity, UV and pressurization in hospital HVAC can either help or hinder efforts to reduce HAI, the Institute added.

 According to the Institute, the following is the full schedule of online instructor-led course offerings:

January 26: COVID-19 and Buildings: Re-occupation after Lockdown

January 27: Reopening Commercial Buildings: Evaluating Your HVAC System’s Readiness to Mitigate the Spread of SARS-CoV-2

February 17: Health Impacts of Indoor Air Extraction, Ventilation, and Filtration – Same or Different?
February 23: Hospital HVAC – Infection Mitigation, Comfort, Performance
February 24: Evaluating Your HVAC System’s Readiness to Mitigate the Spread of SARS-CoV-2
March 2: Latest in High-Performance Dedicated Outdoor Air Systems
March 4: Humidity Control I: Design Tips and Traps
March 25: Save 40% by Complying with Standard 90.1-2019
April 6: Commercial Building Energy Audits – Part I
April 13: Commercial Building Energy Audits – Part II
April 20: Air-to-Air Energy Recovery Fundamentals
April 22: V in HVAC – What, Why, Where, How, and How Much
May 4: An Introduction to ASHRAE Existing Building Commissioning
May 11: Fundamentals of Ultraviolet Germicidal Irradiation (UVGI) for Air and Surface Disinfection
May 20: Introduction to BACnet
June 1: Principles of Building Commissioning: ASHRAE Guideline 0 and Standard 202
June 8: Powering with Renewable Resources: Thermal Energy Storage

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