Masthead - Climate Control Journal

ASHRAE participates in High Performance Buildings Coalition Congressional Event

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

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

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

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

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

JCI named to FT European Climate Leaders list

CORK, Ireland, 18 May 2021: Johnson Controls (JCI) said it has been named to the inaugural FT Climate Leaders in Europe list.

Europe’s Climate Leaders 2021 is a list of companies across Europe that have shown the highest reduction of their emission intensity – that is, core greenhouse gas emissions in relation to revenues, between 2014 and 2019. Johnson Controls reported that it was one of only 300 companies selected from 4,000 across Europe.

“We are extremely proud to be recognized by the Financial Times as a European climate leader,” said George Oliver, chairman and CEO, Johnson Controls. “Sustainability has long been at the heart of everything we do, and it is an honor to be included on this prestigious list. With COP26 approaching at this critical moment in the battle against climate change, it is important that companies continue to play their part in cutting emissions and delivering clean, sustainable solutions across the entire value chain.”

According to JCI, companies on the list – compiled by research firm, Statista – were invited to submit emissions reported following the emission categories of the greenhouse gas protocol (scope 1, 2 and 3). In addition, Statista scrutinized publicly available data, mainly from financial and non-financial reports as well as from CDP (formerly the “Carbon Disclosure Project”).

Although JCI reports all three emissions scopes, the ranking only considers scope 1 and scope 2 emissions, since not all companies publish their scope 3 emissions, it said. Since 2002, JCI said, it has reduced its emissions intensity by more than 70% – equivalent to the carbon sequestered by 17,000 acres of forest. The company said it has also helped its customers save more than 30.6 million tonnes of CO2 globally and $6.6 million through guaranteed operational savings.

At the European level, JCI said, it has been effectively supporting the EU’s ambition to become carbon neutral by 2050. The European Commission recently committed to at least 55% cuts in greenhouse gas emissions (from 1990 levels) by 2030 under the European Green Deal. Decarbonizing Europe’s building stock through the European Commission’s Energy Performance of Buildings Directive has a crucial role to play in this effort – 40% of greenhouse gases come from buildings, the company said.

According to JCI, digitalization has been recognized as a key enabler for the building renovation wave in Europe and the rest of the world. Already, JCI said, it has been deploying its OpenBlue digital platform for optimizing buildings sustainability across its entire value chain – drastically improving the company’s own environmental impact and helping customers consume less energy, conserve resources and identify pathways to achieving healthy, net zero carbon communities.

Katie McGinty, Vice President & Chief Sustainability, Government and Regulatory Affairs Officers, JCI, said: “We are making positive change within our own corporation and believe we are uniquely positioned to help customers and suppliers achieve their sustainability goals. By driving global change, we are ultimately creating an environment for healthy people, healthy places and a healthy planet.”

JCI said it is also helping meet the growing demand for energy-efficient technologies. It said it has provided heat pump solutions for customers at more than a dozen district heating and cooling applications in Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy and Norway.

Heat pumps, it said, have an important role to play in decarbonizing buildings and industry. They have long been in the DNA of industrial refrigeration – utilised in food and beverage, dairy and other process industries for reclaiming low-temperature waste heat and turning it into low-cost, high-temperature heat.

VC funds, Hollywood stars invest heavily in climate change innovation

CHICAGO, Illinois, 18 May 2021: The year 2021 has already seen multiple climate-focused fund launches. London-based One Planet Capital launched a fund for green tech, fintech and sustainability-based B2C businesses, while Hollywood ‘Iron Man’ actor, Robert Downey Jr has founded FootPrint Coalition Ventures to invest in high-growth, sustainability-focused companies.

Robert Downey Jr

The financial world used to think environmental issues couldn’t generate viable rewards, but another climate-focused fund, Congruent Ventures, believes a tipping point has been passed. 

Congruent raises investment specifically for Climate Change solution start-ups and, with USD 300 million under management after closing its second fund at USD 175 million, Managing Partner and Co-Founder, Abe Yokell, said: “If you brought up the word ‘cleantech’ to any institutional investor allocating to venture 10 years ago, they would do their best to avoid the meeting, but now, there’s a fundamental belief there will be significant financial returns investing broadly in climate tech over time.”

Congruent’s portfolio includes electric vehicle-charging provider, Amply, which raised USD 13.2 million last year from investors, including Soros Fund Management and Siemens. Digitally controllable electrical panel company, Span raised USD 20 million in January through Congruent, with investors including Munich Re Ventures’ HSB Fund and Amazon’s Alexa Fund.

And Congruent itself is well-founded, with investors including UC Investments, the Microsoft Climate Innovation Fund, Three Cairns Group, Jeremy and Hannelore Grantham Environmental Trust and Surdna Foundation, among other institutions, foundations and family offices.

Regulation A+ crowdfunding companies are also seeing investment, such as digital twins company, Cityzenith, who recently launched their international ‘Clean Cities, Clean Future’ campaign as part of the Race to Zero movement.

Cities worldwide generate 70% of the world’s carbon emissions, but Cityzenith’s AI Digital Twin platform technology can help property asset management groups, city planners and developers reduce emissions and move to carbon neutrality in the next 10 years. 

Michael Jansen, CEO, Cityzenith, said at the launch of the ‘Clean Cities – Clean Future’ initiative: “We have to help the most polluted urban centers become carbon neutral, and we plan to do this by donating the company’s Digital Twin platform, SmartWorldOS to key cities, one at a time, after every USD 1 million we raise. We’re able to do this because of the recent surge of investment we’ve had as part of our USD 15m raise.”

Cityzenith is already benefiting from the funding shift, reportedly attracting USD 2.5 million in investment since late 2020 through Regulation A+ crowdfunding and a surge in shares from USD 0.575 to USD 1.50 in just five months. The US company has raised USD 10 million to date.

Jansen said: “In the past decade, investors struggled to justify backing Climate Change solutions, but global demand for net-zero carbon by 2050 and a sustainable future means a tipping point has been passed.

“Products, such as our own SmartWorldOS™, which monitors and collects data on future and existing building assets, so construction and maintenance can occur at optimal efficiency, will be essential to reducing carbon emissions and energy waste. We must invest in climate solutions now so that we can protect our planet sooner and more effectively.

“We’ve seen a significant amount of interest in our current USD 15m raise from accredited investors in recent months, as there are tangible, financial upsides in the built-environment to going climate-friendly, and carbon credits are going to become an enormous part of this in the next few years.”

European-based fund 2150 also launched this year, investing €200m (USD 240 million) into start-ups developing sustainable technologies to lower carbon emissions in Europe’s cities.

Co-founder Christian Hernandez has seen a shift in perceptions, too. He said: “There are enough proof points now that those two (profitable investments and investing in climate solutions) can coexist.”

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

UAE, US commit to jointly tackle climate challenge

ABU DHABI, UAE, 5 April 2021: The United Arab Emirates and the United States announced their joint commitment to tackle the climate challenge in a Joint Statement that stresses the importance and urgency of raising global climate ambition. Both countries announced their intent to cooperate on new investments in financing decarbonisation across the MENA region and beyond, and to focus on assisting the most vulnerable adapt to the effects of climate change.

H.E. Dr Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology and the UAE’s Special Envoy for Climate Change, said: “Together with the US, the UAE has affirmed that decisive, proactive climate action can be an engine for economic growth and sustainable development. Building on the legacy and experience of the UAE, which has demonstrated a longstanding commitment to sustainable development and today operates three of the world’s largest solar facilities, we will focus, together with the US, on joint efforts on renewable energy, hydrogen, industrial decarbonization, carbon capture and storage, nature-based solutions, and low-carbon urban design.

“The UAE is rich in opportunities with the world’s lowest solar power costs, and significant carbon capture investments. We look forward to sharing our experience with the international community to turn climate action into economic opportunity.”

Noting the progress made by many leading companies, both countries agreed to work closely with the private sector to mobilize the necessary investment and technology resources needed to stem the climate crisis and support the economy.

At the national level, the United States and the United Arab Emirates confirmed their intent to work towards decarbonising their economies according to their national circumstances and economic development plans, including reducing carbon emissions by 2030.

The United States and the United Arab Emirates stressed their commitment to the implementation of the Paris Agreement and promote the success of the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow.

The Joint Statement emerges from the UAE Regional Dialogue for Climate Action, held on April 4. The event convened climate leaders from across the MENA region and unveiled a new era of cooperation in the region for a future focused on prosperity through climate policy, investment, innovation and sustainable economic growth.

The Dialogue drew the participation of high-level dignitaries from across the region as well as critical global partners and organisations. Participants included COP26 President-Designate, Alok Sharma and US Special Envoy for Climate, John Kerry, together with ministers and high-level representatives from the UAE, Oman, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Iraq, Sudan and the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). The event further reinforced the UAE’s regional climate leadership, providing a common ground for participating nations to build a shared vision for climate action ahead of COP26.

‘The cost of ignoring much-needed IAQ upgrades is far greater’

Amid the celebratory news of the roll-out of vaccination programs around the globe, we must all remember one of the biggest lessons that COVID-19 taught the world: Buildings – as they are designed, constructed, and operated and maintained – play a significant role in the health and wellbeing of not only their occupants but also the people and communities around them. These include our private commercial office buildings, residential buildings of all sizes, hospitals, entertainment venues, schools, public buildings and more.

We have also learned that infrastructure inequities in cities, states and countries across the globe – including those in transportation, healthcare, agriculture and housing – matter and have a big role to play when it comes to effectively managing a health crisis. And sadly, we learned that much like climate change, a pandemic will also disproportionately affect those with the least amount of resources.

The successful development of a vaccine for COVID-19 does not mean that we do not need to develop new practices when designing the places, spaces and communities around us. Why? Because vaccines are only one component of how we will recover and move forward. This is not a once-in-a-generation crisis. As a global community of sustainability and health professionals, we must embrace the lessons learned about virus transmission and apply them to ensure a permanent recovery and resiliency plan. History cannot repeat itself; the cost to humanity is too great.

This is a point in time when leadership matters. This is a point in time for deep inflection. And this is a point in time for purposeful and forward-looking action. We now have the opportunity – and a moral obligation – to completely re-think how our buildings and spaces should be designed, constructed, operated and maintained. We must turn our buildings and spaces into places that positively contribute to our health and wellbeing. That means that we have to take a fresh and honest look at the inequities in the communities around us and build back better with an eye toward achieving resiliency and equity. Multiple studies, including one just released by Oxfam, have found that the world’s richest people have made significant financial gains during COVID-19, while the world’s poor have fallen even further behind.

At USGBC and GBCI, we believe that better buildings and communities equal better lives. That’s why we are dedicated to continuing to invest in LEED, the world’s most widely used and trusted green building certification program. The success of LEED around the world is a testament to its effectiveness. As of this writing, we have more than 100,600 registered and certified LEED commercial projects, nearly two million registered and certified LEED residential units, projects in 181 countries and territories and nearly 205,000 LEED APs implementing the rating system around the world. Much like LEED’s commitment to environmental sustainability, human health and wellness strategies have been a foundation of the LEED program since its beginning, with over 70% of the rating system’s credits tying back both directly and indirectly to human health and wellness.

Mahesh Ramanujam

We know that addressing the systemic challenges revealed by COVID-19 won’t happen overnight and without significant planning. And while we know that addressing these systemic needs will not come without significant investment, we also know that healthy people, in healthy places and spaces, equal a healthy and robust global economy – and that the price we will pay for not addressing these needs will be far greater than addressing them now.

We can start by focusing our efforts on one of the primary targets of preventing virus spread: Indoor air quality (IAQ). Public health data has shown that buildings are safer to occupy when their mechanical systems, especially HVAC systems, promote good ventilation, air scrubbing and purification and enhanced outside air exchange. While these enhancements alone cannot eliminate the risk of virus transmission, they are a critical component of a larger mitigation strategy. Upgrades to outdated and inefficient HVAC systems in existing buildings across the world have been delayed for decades owing to cost concerns. However, the cost of ignoring these needed upgrades is far greater, as the pandemic has demonstrated in human lives lost, shuttered economies and schools and overburdened healthcare delivery platforms. Now is the time to invest in a resilient future and build back the trust between people and the buildings around them.

One way that USGBC and GBCI have strived to build back trust between people and the buildings around them is through our LEED Safety First Pilot Credit, related to managing IAQ as a component of our LEED green building rating system. The pilot credit builds on existing IAQ credits in LEED and helps building owners and managers ensure that IAQ systems are operating as designed. It also helps determine temporary adjustments to ventilation that may minimize the spread of COVID-19.

The pandemic has also called attention to the condition of schools. For well over a decade, USGBC has been advocating for a major and long overdue global investment in school buildings. We have already seen some of the adverse effects of schools being shut down and students being forced to learn from home for nearly a year, and the value placed on schools and in-person education is as high as ever. Now is the time to leverage that goodwill and invest in these facilities on a global scale, so that such disruptions never happen again. We need to ensure that every school across the globe has proper ventilation, air purification equipment, carbon dioxide monitors and proper outdoor air exchange in order to reduce the risk of spreading airborne pathogens as a key component in their back-to-school engagement strategy. Every student needs to have a chance to thrive, and a key component of that is a healthy school building.

These investments alone will not create a strong, healthy and resilient planet. We also need to look at cities and their infrastructures. Despite predictions of an exodus of people leaving dense urban population centers for the suburbs, we did not see the global abandonment of cities during the pandemic. Not everyone has the resources to simply pack up and leave, and many rely on the resources that cities provide. And many of those that did leave their cities simply relocated to other cities.

Cities that set themselves apart through substantial investments in sustainability, health and wellness, resiliency and equity will be the leaders of tomorrow. People by their very nature need to feel confident, comfortable and safe with the community around them. That’s why it is critical to provide a framework that communicates the importance of investing in urban infrastructure.

I am proud of the 114 cities and communities across the globe who have certified through the LEED for Cities and Communities rating systems, including the City of Dubai and the King Salman Energy Park (SPARK) project. These rating systems revolutionize the way cities and communities are planned, developed and operated, in order to improve their overall sustainability and quality of life. LEED for Cities and Communities is aligned with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and encompasses social, economic and environmental performance indicators and strategies with a clear, data-driven means of benchmarking and communicating progress. The rating system also addresses pandemic-specific challenges with two LEED Safety First Pilot Credits, one addressing the preparedness for pandemic planning and the other ensuring social equity in pandemic planning.

At some point, we will enter a post-pandemic world. However, leaders must not then forget the lessons learned from COVID-19. We must remain focused on letting science, data and the health and wellness of future generations drive each and every decision that we make. Better buildings and communities do lead to better and healthier lives. Let’s make that our collective legacy.

Mahesh Ramanujam is President and CEO of the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) and Green Business Certification Inc. (GBCI). He may be contacted at mr@usgbc.org.

THE EVOLVING BUILDING-RETROFIT LANDSCAPE

The Middle East’s construction sector remains resilient despite the complexities brought on by 2020. For stakeholders, the resiliency stems from the sector’s ability to withstand difficulties even prior to COVID-19. Providing an example, Majd Fayyad, Technical Manager, Emirates Green Building Council, says that in 2018, the growing oversupply of high-end residential and commercial properties saw investment yields start to fall, way before the pandemic triggered further reductions in construction contract awards in 2020. Fayyad says that though there has been a decline in the value of new contracts in the GCC region – for instance, it went down by 40% to just over USD 4 billion in April 2020 – the outlook for 2021, according to Deloitte, is more optimistic, with the UAE’s GDP set to grow 2.5%.

Phillipa Grant

For Phillipa Grant, Partner and Director of Sustainability, AESG, the construction pipeline is not as dry as people may think. “I think there has been a shift, and Dubai has become a bit more of a regional design hub for the Middle East,” she says. “There is a lot of work being done in Dubai, which covers the wider GCC region, as well as in Africa; so, for the whole MENA region, a lot of new construction is still going on, which is managing to keep the architects and engineers within Dubai busy.”

A more pressing issue affecting project pipelines is the shift in the overall energy intensity in buildings following the onset of COVID-19,with Fayyad pointing out that social distancing measures and teleworking reduced people’s use of commercial buildings, while increasing energy consumption at home. He adds that in the first half of 2020, electricity use in residential buildings in some countries grew by 20-30% while falling by around 10% per cent in commercial building*. “Further, the 2020 Global Status Report for Buildings and Construction states that CO2 emissions from the operation of buildings have increased to their highest level in 2019,” he says.

Majd Fayyad

Overall, Fayyad says there is ample opportunity in 2021 to look at the way buildings are utilised. He points out that these factors are increasing focus on implementing green building best practices in upcoming developments and driving momentum for retrofitting practices, which has already been a strong focus in recent years in the move to achieve greater energy efficiency and reduced emissions and costs. Azmi S Aboulhoda, Director, EMergy Consultancy, shares a similar opinion. “In the UAE, attention towards energy retrofitting has been increasing for several years now,” he says. “It is moving in parallel with the new construction. Recently, few steps have been taken in Saudi Arabia to govern the business and establish guidelines and regulations. With the increase in number of people working remotely, a new concern has been raised that will push the retrofit business in the region towards homes.” Aboulhoda points out that retrofitting holds strong opportunity to enhance the value of buildings and that it will need to be considered not just from an energy perspective but also in the way we use spaces.

Azmi S Aboulhoda

Ronak Monga, Segment Development Manager – Commercial Building Services, Grundfos, says that the same trend can be seen in Oman and Kuwait, as well. “Many of the buildings you see in these countries have now existed for more than ten years,” he says. “These old buildings present a high energy savings potential. Business sectors that operate their buildings, such as hospitals, schools and hotels, have the highest energy savings opportunity in their existing infrastructure. Not only will retrofit ensure smooth operation and maintenance, but it will also significantly reduce operational expenditure, which then improves their bottom line.” He adds that with the pandemic situation, businesses are focusing on keeping operational expense to a minimum to survive the global economic impact brought by COVID-19.

ENERGY FOR THE PURPOSES OF ROI

To date, a lot of the retrofitting initiatives are directed towards addressing the changes in energy consumption profiles. Fayyad points out that with mass teleworking and eLearning shifting activities to the residential subsector and several major companies allowing their workforce the freedom to work from home, existing commercial and office spaces, undoubtedly, need to be adapted, retrofitted and/or repurposed to cater to occupancy profile, be it partial or full. Aboulhoda says that this is the main concern driving building and business owners towards retrofitting, as they will be paying almost the same amount of utility bills, despite the reduced occupancy.

Ronak Monga

Grant adds that these trends have a long-term effect on discussions surrounding office spaces and that this will lead to different streams of thoughts from architects and designers. “A lot of building owners are looking more at flexibility and the use of space in different and more innovative ways,” she says. “This is better than having a vacant space, which is a waste of energy, as you will still need to keep it running; and also, there is the cost impact. So, there will be focus on flexibility, looking at how spaces can be used and how we can make the most of existing stock we have with the changing environment.”

Monga adds that this drastic change in occupancy has brought into focus how buildings perform in part-load conditions – and usually, the efficiency during part load is a focus during design – but has not brought much into focus when buildings are in operation. “This drastic change in occupancy in buildings has brought into attention both during new projects and retrofits how various systems operate in part load,” he says. Fayyad says that a lot of the older building stock is not equipped to handle these challenges, as the existing control systems are outdated or, in some cases, not even present. “Building retrofits in these scenarios can allow owners and facility management to respond adequately using demand-controlled control strategies,” he says. “It not only allows them to save energy and water but also gives them the tools necessary to respond to different occupancy levels. They are also able to record the time-of-use and the energy profile throughout the operations to gather data and optimise their controls and operations.”

Fayyad says that in the UAE, there is an enormous potential in the buildings and construction sector to increase resource and material efficiencies, drive carbon emissions reductions and stimulate economic growth. “Based on the EmiratesGBC’s Building Efficiency Accelerator Project Report, the best hotel and hotel apartment performers consume 58% less energy and 65% less water per unit area than the worst performers in the category,” he says. “The best performers among schools consume 61% less energy and 84% less water per unit area compared to the worst. Among malls, the lowest consumer uses 35% less energy and 58% less water per area compared to the highest consumer.” Fayyad points out that this shows the strong potential for savings and operational efficiencies that can be achieved through remedial actions, such as audits, retrofits, energy management and the use of awareness campaigns or trainings to drive changes in behaviour.

Grant says that there has been a lot of push from a sustainability perspective. “That’s only going to increase, because there is going to be more and more pressure to reduce energy consumption, improve efficiency, reduce carbon, and hit international, regional and local targets,” she says. “So, the pressure is going to mount from a sustainability perspective, which is great, because I think it needs to happen. There needs to be that pressure, and we’re still not on track to hit targets, and there is a lot more that needs to be done across all areas.” An area that Grant says has also been gaining better awareness in retrofits is fire and life safety, especially in existing high-rises, which typically face risk from poor cladding.

FOCUS ON HEALTH AND WELLNESS

In addition to energy-related and fire-and-safety-related building performance, retrofits have placed greater emphasis on occupant health. Aboulhoda says that nowadays, the energy-retrofitting projects are being combined with indoor environmental quality (IEQ) measures through projects that can be categorised as retro-commissioning, where energy is not the only or main concern. “This will attract investors looking forward to overcome the financial crisis of the current and any future pandemics,” he says. This move, Fayyad says, is especially evident in the retail and hospitality sectors. “Consumer confidence and spending were influenced, as employers took steps to manage the impact of COVID-19 by reducing salaries and cutting jobs,” he says. “In light of the ease of restrictions, lockdowns and the availability of vaccines, the tourism and retail sectors are slowly picking up.

These sectors are looking to increase customer confidence and, as a result, are following not only social distancing protocols but also the overall efficient operations of their facilities.” Fayyad points to ASHRAE and REHVA, which have released guidance for safe HVAC operations for the prevention of transmission of COVID-19 indoors, and these practices stem from proper IAQ and IEQ practices. “Increased outdoor-to-indoor ventilation and filtration, however, does increase energy consumption, and the only way to mitigate this is through efficient operations and/or retrofits,” he says. “This is not only limited to retail or hospitality but other sectors, as well, such as schools and commercial buildings. In critical times such as this, owners are increasingly aware that their buildings’ operations should not only have minimal costs but also be safe.”

Fayyad adds that the guidance developed by ASHRAE and REHVA rely on the core principles of sustainable and green buildings. “Research has shown that health and wellbeing features have a positive effect on employee retention and mental health as well reduced operational costs. This is a win-win situation for building owners and tenants, as owners do not have to spend as much capital on maintenance and operations,” he says. “Tenants, in turn, enjoy the benefits of a healthier indoor environment and do not have to pay as much on their utilities. Several businesses, especially in hospitality and retail, are now obliged to ensure health and safety in buildings as a top priority. Their business revenue is now more than ever related to how seriously they take actions to ensure the safety of their guests, visitors and occupants.”

AboulHoda echoes this, saying that IEQ has become crucial for a successful retrofit. “COVID-19 has increased the awareness among building and business owners,” he says. “Further, COVID-19 has added another dimension of retrofit measures, such as economisers, which will more efficiently introduce outside air in buildings, and personalised systems, which will avoid running full systems when partial occupancies take place. The measures taken by building and business owners are more focused into concentrated hygiene practices that can be observed by occupants and visitors and can result in some kind of assurance. However, system-wise measures are yet to evolve, since they encounter high capital investments.”

For Grant, there was already a definite shift in mindset toward health and wellness being considered as part of sustainability even before the pandemic. “Buildings are expanding to have that social health and welfare aspect from a design perspective, which is really great to see,” she says. “This was already happening, pre-COVID, and of course, COVID shone a light on health on a global scale to make sure people have healthy and safe spaces to live and work. I would expect additional drivers to that growing area and field. It will shift the way residential design is considered.”

Monga is in agreement, adding that pre-COVID, there was a lot of talk about improvement of employee productivity in relation to IAQ and IEQ “But the safety and health aspect of it has increased even more during the pandemic,” he says. “COVID-19 has also increased the focus on water disinfection – controlling the growth of any micro-organisms, like Legionella, in the water that we use on a day-to-day basis is equally important to stop the spread of communicable diseases.” Grant believes while there has been positive movement, more needs to be done. “I would still say, we are not seeing as much activity in retrofit as we would like to,” she says. “It would be great from a sustainability perspective to see that part of the market incentivised more to promote improvements in the existing buildings stock. I know there are regulations and government incentives coming into play. I should say that would hopefully stimulate more retrofit activities. We are hoping to still see more happen.”

Fayyad agrees. “While the efforts taken by the UAE government in this direction are commendable, we must continue to push the building and construction sector towards greater efficiencies and to lower the carbon emissions,” he says. “We only have a few years to meet the Paris Agreement targets, and now is the right time to start looking at deep retrofits as a key step in this journey.” Fayyad recommends achieving deep buildings retrofits, targeting 50% energy reduction by decreasing energy demand and implementing energy efficiency measures before adding on-site renewables. “In fact, 50% energy reduction is a realistic target for poor performing buildings, as our Deep Retrofit Study identified,” he says. Elaborating more on this study, Fayyad says that all respondents showed a positive position, with a majority agreeing that deep retrofits are achievable in the UAE with an acceptable payback period using the current technologies available in the market. “While most in the private sector agree that retrofits should be mandated, the developers prefer that building rating schemes should be made compulsory, instead, or retrofits made voluntary with more financial incentives developed,” he says. “Developers also agreed that an annual reduction target of 11-20% (in kWh) is adequate, should retrofits be mandated.”

Monga says that possibly having an incentive-based model, where higher commercial value is given to energy-efficient buildings, would be a “dream come true”. “Denmark has a similar concept – where a home or a building that is rated higher in energy efficiency can demand higher rent and selling price,” he says. “Therefore, incentivising the building developers also incentivises the potential tenants or buyers, as it helps them save on energy and heating costs in the long run.”  In the region, Fayyad adds that the top three challenges to deep retrofits identified by the respondents were lack of landlord interest, lack of financial incentives and low tariff rates. “The results also showed there is greater need of market awareness of both retrofit projects and the  expertise of the retrofit market,” he says. “EmiratesGBC recommends that ESCOs should report their project savings transparently and consistently to build confidence and repertoire within the industry to encourage the public to pursue more retrofits.” Fayyad adds that with the support of regulations and incentives, a decarbonisation roadmap can be realised.

GEA speaks of improving plant efficiency, reducing carbon emissions

DUESSELDORF, Germany, 12 February 2021: Potential energy savings of up to 30% and a significant reduction in CO2 emissions by as much as 90% or even 100% – that’s what its Sustainable Energy Solutions (SEnS), which integrates processes and utilities (refrigeration and heating) solutions, can help in developing optimisation strategies for customers in diverse industries, GEA said through a Press release. Numerous successfully completed SEnS projects from GEA show that these optimisations reduce the customer’s energy footprint and running costs, without compromising output or the bottom line, GEA added.

Kai Becker
Source: GEA

According to the United Nations, energy efficiency offers a potential 40% of the emission reductions required to help meet global climate goals, GEA pointed out. Due to a growing number of rules and regulations and its own climate targets, there is an absolute need for the industry to reduce its carbon footprint and become more energy-efficient, overall, it said. With cooling and heating traditionally accounting for anywhere between 50% and 90% of a plant’s entire energy consumption, it’s the ideal starting point for GEA’s SEnS initiative, it added.

GEA said its SEnS offering is a culmination of a broad processing portfolio and years of industry know-how, combined with extensive refrigeration expertise. “SEnS supports customers in the food processing, dairy and beverage industries, helping them achieve their climate goals by making them more sustainable,” said Kai Becker, CEO, Refrigeration Technology Division, GEA. As a global industrial technology provider, GEA said, it will continue to strengthen its SEnS offering in 2021. Using the SEnS approach, GEA said it will promote the increased adoption of sustainable solutions, which drive down energy consumption and reduce carbon emissions while helping customers from diverse industry sectors slash their operational costs.

Ulrich Walk
Source: GEA

Ulrich Walk, Chief Service Officer (CSO) – Refrigeration Technologies, said: “GEA has developed a structured holistic and proven approach that begins with analysing the customer’s precise energy requirements, then making process optimizations and including utilities in the equation. By connecting heat pump technology to manufacturing processes, the GEA experts ensure energy is moving circularly, rather than being wasted.”

According to GEA, each SEnS project includes a single point of contact, enabling customers to achieve genuine and proven reductions in energy consumption and their carbon footprint. The SEnS process, the company said, is backed up by a cross-functional engineering team, with experts from dairy, food or beverage processing, as required, as well as team members with refrigeration (heating & cooling) expertise in diverse processing industries. Each project, it added, considers the customer’s business parameters and ambitions, formulated as measurable KPIs, against which the installation must deliver.

Biden regulatory moves will make ESG the ‘ultimate investment megatrend’

WASHINGTON DC, February 2 2021US President Joe Biden’s expected regulatory changes will push environmental, social and governance (ESG) investing “to become the ultimate megatrend”, said Nigel Green, CEO and Founder, deVere Group.

The independent financial advisory and fintech firm, which has USD 12 billion under advisement, made the statement, quoting its CEO, against the backdrop of President Biden picking Gary Gensler to head the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the U.S. financial regulator.

Green said: “Joe Biden’s administration is going to usher in an era of serious momentum for responsible and sustainable investing. This is not just because of the likely tougher approach to the use of fossil fuels and his campaign’s vow to take swift action to tackle the climate emergency. It is also because of the expected appointment of Gary Gensler to lead the SEC, who is likely to heavily reform and broaden ESG investing and corporate disclosure rules in the U.S. In doing such, we can assume that Gensler would have the major support on the Commission.”

For instance, upon her appointment as Acting SEC Chair, Allison Herren Lee said that during her time as a Commissioner, “I have focused on climate and sustainability, and those issues will continue to be a priority for me.” In The New York Times, she wrote: “Both investors and the broader public need clear information about how businesses are contributing to greenhouse gas emissions, and how they are managing — or not managing — climate risks internally. Realistically, that can happen only through mandatory public disclosure.”

Green said: “Should the SEC push ahead with beefing-up green investment rules, as is expected, it will close the transatlantic gap that has emerged in recent years as the European watchdogs pushed ahead with increased stricter ESG investing and disclosure regulations.

“At the beginning of 2020, I described ESG investing as a ‘megatrend’ of the decade.  And throughout the year inflow doubled and ESG funds outperformed the market. But the tag ‘megatrend’ would now seem somewhat underplayed if the U.S. moves towards ESG-related regulatory reforms and comes into line with Europe. Responsible investing will become the ultimate investment megatrend should this happen.”

According to the firm, in a move to encourage clients to consider the ESG opportunities, it announced in January that it is planning to offer free, independent advice on socially responsible investing, with the aim of positioning USD 1 billion in environmental, social and governance (ESG) investments within five years. The company said:“The likely rule changes in the U.S. on ESG investing and corporate disclosures are not as yet heavily priced-in to markets. Investors should keep a keen eye on this area and move to take advantage of the opportunities.”

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.”

Ministry of Climate Change and Environment launches policies to boost UAE’s sustainability agenda

ABU DHABI, UAE, 24 January 2021: His Excellency Dr Abdullah Belhaif Al Nuaimi, UAE Minister of Climate Change and Environment, launched new initiatives and policies to boost the UAE’s sustainability agenda, the Ministry said through a Press release.  The launch happened during the annual Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week (ADSW), the Ministry added.

The Minister highlighted the importance of driving coordinated action to expedite the energy transition and increase the share of renewables in the countries’ energy mix at the opening ceremony of the 11th Assembly of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). He reflected on the UAE’s journey in deploying renewables at home and abroad, leading to a considerable surge in its domestic production capacity, as well as playing an effective and distinct role in reducing the cost of renewable energy worldwide.

At the Ministerial Plenary Meeting on National Energy Planning and Implementation for Fostering Energy Transition, Dr Al Nuaimi presented the UAE’s new climate ambitions, set out in its second Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) under the Paris Agreement. He noted that the NDC fell under the country’s national economic and energy diversification drive, manifested in its current energy transition.

Moreover, Dr Al Nuaimi delivered the closing remarks at the first joint meeting to prepare for two landmark UN summits that will take place in New York in September 2021 – the Food Systems Summit and the High-level Dialogue on Energy. The participants proposed targets, policies, initiatives, and other outcomes for the summits that have simultaneous food, energy and climate benefits.

At a panel session, titled ‘COP26 – a Crucial Stepping Stone on the Path to a Sustainable Global Recovery’, the Minister stressed that the UN Climate Change Conference 2021 (COP26) is a timely opportunity for leaders to resume climate negotiations and work on a shared vision for raising climate ambition in the context of a green recovery.

He pointed out that throughout the tough times posed by COVID-19, the UAE has remained dedicated to accelerating its transition to a green economy, as part of its recovery plans, and has taken great strides along this path, including moving forward with its renewables and nuclear projects.

At the third edition of the Abu Dhabi Sustainable Finance Forum, His Excellency Dr Al Nuaimi announced the launch of the UAE Sustainable Finance Framework 2021-2031 in partnership with Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM). Pioneered by the Ministry, the national framework supports the mobilisation of private capital towards low-carbon, environmentally sustainable and climate-resilient investments.

With the aim of ensuring the UAE emerges as a leader in climate knowledge, the Minister launched the UAE Climate Change Research Network that brings together a group of committed scientists and researchers to advance climate data collection and policy-relevant research on climate change impacts and adaptation. The Network presents opportunities for climate scientists in the UAE to engage with one another and with their peers from other countries as well as to facilitate research collaborations.

Dr Al Nuaimi also unveiled the inaugural edition of The UAE State of Climate Report, which provides an overview of the state of knowledge on historical and projected climate changes and their impacts on the UAE and the wider Arabian Gulf region.

On the sidelines of ADSW 2021, the Minister opened the winners’ announcement of the third edition of the Global Innovation Award (GIA), organised by Globally on behalf of MOCCAE. The competition aims to attract innovations from around the world to the UAE to support the country in its quest to become a world leader in sustainable development. This year’s GIA received a record number of applications – more than 1,200 from 65 countries. The winner was Cambrian Innovation, from the United States, with its innovative waste-to-energy solution that purifies wastewater while producing energy from the contaminants.

‘The UAE leadership has a view of the future – and it is not just tomorrow’

Climate Ambassador Tomas Anker Christensen

Congratulations on your appointment as Denmark’s Climate Ambassador. Could you speak on the potential areas of cooperation between the UAE and Denmark?

I think it’s remarkable the far-sighted leadership the UAE has taken as an oil- and gas-producing country. The leaders have a view of the future – and the future that is not just tomorrow, not just five or 10 years, but they are thinking ahead to 20 or 50 years from now.

We are talking about the major transformation of energy systems. The largest solar farms in the world are in the UAE, and a lot of investment is being done in this area. The country is taking energy efficiency in buildings seriously and addressing the challenge of having had, years ago, the highest carbon footprint per inhabitant.

In that sense, cooperation between the UAE and Denmark on energy and other topics related to food and maritime issues makes imminent sense. We are the country in the EU with the largest oil -production. We have oil and gas in the North Sea. But we are slowly ending our exploration of that oil and gas, and in December 2020, the Danish Parliament decided to end fossil extraction in the North Sea by 2050 with a plan for the just transition of impacted workers and a conversion of the oil and gas fields to Carbon Capture Utilization and Storage (CCUS)].

There is also a huge market for renewable energy, globally, as this transformation [can be seen] worldwide. In Denmark, we are building better and taller wind farms and offshore wind farms, including over the next two years in two new energy islands. As a result, there has been global interest surrounding Danish windfarm operators and wind constructors, many of whom are now in demand in a number of countries such as the US, Korea and Australia.

Could you speak more about the competitive advantage that countries such as the UAE can have from specialising in sustainable cooling solutions, both in terms of developing the expertise within the country and in terms of pioneering solutions? Do you see this to be a growing market?

The world is undergoing an energy transformation, and the UAE is also very well positioned to be part of it and, in some instances, to lead this transformation. As such, a partnership with a country like Denmark makes great sense.

When it comes to the development of cities, it’s clear that if you look at trends as a whole, [the population] is moving from the countryside to cities at an increased rate. I think the latest figures from UN Habitat and other global organisations is that almost half of the human population lives in cities. We have been going from 30-40% of the population to half, and the trajectory is pointing towards a world where most of the people are in cities.

There have been large movements in the Global South. In China, you have more than 70 cities with more than one million inhabitants, and many are newly constructed with poor quality of buildings that need to be retrofitted and rebuilt. In India, you have a growing middle-class population, and this has led to growth of new buildings in new cities or more modern buildings in new parts of the city. The same trend can be seen in the Gulf region. For a very long time, Dubai was home to most of the cranes in the world. In Africa, large cities that are already big, continue to grow. In Indonesia, we see a population in the process of moving Jakarta to a new island, because it is sinking.

Basically, in many places, the built-environment is not a done deal. We are at the beginning, not at the end. It’s only in older industrial countries in the West that the city structure is permanent. I would think the opportunities for both new buildings and retrofitting are very large, especially in warmer climates, where expertise is needed in challenging environments.

For us, in Denmark, it’s more about reverse engineering our experience with energy efficiency and insulation, and usinge and applying them in the UAE. Also, there would be solutions we need to develop from scratch, based on the circumstances and the physical environment. 

It’s clear that cooling also has some attributes different from heating. [In Denmark], some companies are experimenting with district cooling, but most are district heating, with a lot of combined power and heat plants. Also, some of them are doing this with garbage waste disposal and heat and power. With the more recent climate law, because of the move towards circular economy, we are now looking at recycling and reusing our waste rather than incinerating it.

What can further drive the development of expertise and solutions in the sustainability arena in a country?

A combination of energy pricing and embedding efficiency in building codes and regulation by central and local governments are key here. The building owner and operator might not be interested in building more efficiently because of the perceived cost, and they will try to defer the cost onto the tenants. That means rent goes up, bills go up, and they are not too happy either. That’s always a question for the less well off, that’s also the question of the fair and equitable distribution of the cost and benefit, [[when it comes to implementing sustainable solutions.].

In Denmark, people have been investing in energy efficiency because of energy cost and due to strict regulation since the 1970’s. Because of the cost of energy, there are huge paybacks at a shorter time.

In what ways can the public sector in the GCC region incentivise sustainability initiatives in the built-environment, both in terms of introducing retrofit targets and also ensuring new buildings adhere to higher energy- efficiency goals? 

For one, I would say that educating the general public is extremely important, in terms of the cost, economy, sustainability and potential social benefits.

The very practical education of engineers and economists, integrating energy efficiency into curricula in the built-environment, so that you have your own skilled engineers and technicians ¨to operate systems, do the buildings and learn from it. It is a mentality and way of thinking. We have done it for the last 50 or more years; we didn’t do it before that. It took us a long time and heavy regulation, strong incentives and a lot of private discussion among government and private sector and institutions of higher education to get that sector to operate in an efficient and integrated way. I would encourage public policy makers to think through different dimensions of how to establish a cluster of knowledge and expertise. The young students of today will be the leaders of tomorrow, and they have to make it work 10-15 years down the road.

AESG in global expansion drive with 45% growth target for 2021

Saeed Al Abbar

Dubai, UAE, 06 January 2021: Consultancy, engineering and advisory firm, AESG announced the appointment of global directors for each of its lines of business, as well as the expansion of the role of the company co-founder, Saeed Al Abbar, to group-wide CEO. Making the announcement through a Press release, the firm said the move follows the establishment of offices in the UAE, Saudi Arabia and the United Kingdom, and successful delivery of large-scale projects across the Middle East, Europe and Asia. The consolidation of service teams under unified global divisions, AESG said, will enable it to deploy the best skills and resources from all its international offices on projects worldwide.

Outlining how this strategy bolsters the company’s ambitious plans for the upcoming year, Al Abbar said: “2021 is set to be a significant growth year for AESG, as we build on the momentum we have established. While the Middle East will remain a focal market for us, we are also seeing steady growth in our business in the UK and Europe, as well as a surge in opportunities in Asia. Our reorganization perfectly positions us to capitalize on these opportunities, as we draw on the brightest and most qualified talent from each market to drive our success across the vast geography of our operations.”

Phillipa Grant

AESG said that under the direction of its newly appointed global directors it is looking to further grow its teams. The company said it has budgeted for a 45% increase in headcount, with the objective of scaling to 140 professionals through 2021. The company also revealed its intention to replicate in Asia the strategy that has proven highly successful in the Middle East and Europe by establishing a regional headquarters in Singapore. 

AESG said its newly appointed global directors will be tasked with leading teams, driving the growth of their service lines and ensuring best practices are implemented across regions. Two AESG Global Directors have been promoted from within the company, with Phillipa Grant and Nivine Issa now taking on the roles of Global Director of Sustainability and Global Director of Environment, respectively. Grant and Issa have also taken up equity partnership in the firm, demonstrating their long-term commitment to AESG and highlighting the company’s leadership in gender equality in the field.

Nivine Issa

With its appointment of Peter Downer to the position of Global Director of Fire and Life Safety, AESG said it is also looking to draw from the experience and expertise of a business leader who has worked with large multinational construction consultancy firms. An industry veteran of over 35 years – 15 of which have been in senior leadership positions – Downer has worked extensively on projects across the Middle East, Asia and Australia, AESG said. Prior to joining AESG, he served as the Senior VP at Jensen Hughes, where he led the Asia region, which included offices in China, Malaysia, Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong and Macau.

Peter Downer

Al Abbar said: “AESG has successfully navigated the challenges of 2020, and as developers look to enhance and optimize the efficiency, sustainability, safety and manageability of their investments, our comprehensive portfolio of specialist services is now more relevant than ever. We maintain a highly optimistic outlook with confidence that our commitment to maintaining service excellence through our ongoing expansion will further validate our position as a leading global consultancy firm.”

ASHRAE, CIBSE sign strategic partnership agreement

ATLANTA, Georgia, 15 December 2020: ASHRAE and the Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE) have signed a Strategic Partnership Agreement (SPA) formalizing the organizations’ relationship, ASHRAE said through a Press release.

Charles E Gulledge III, 2020-21 ASHRAE President, and Stuart MacPherson, CIBSE President, signed an SPA during a virtual signing ceremony on December 10. The agreement outlines how ASHRAE and CIBSE will work cooperatively on activities that serve their respective memberships, to promote the advancement of a more sustainable built-environment through HVAC&R technologies and their applications.

According to ASHRAE, areas of collaboration include:

  • Joint initiatives aimed at accelerating the progression of digital technologies and research
  • Virtual design and construction to improve the resilience of buildings and the health of occupants in an increasingly challenging climate
  • Coordinated promotion of joint grassroots meetings and conferences
  • Advocacy and work on common public affairs goals and ideologies
  • Consistent leadership communication
  • Publication development and distribution
  • Education and professional development co-development and cross marketing

“Our continued collaboration with CIBSE provides a meaningful opportunity to coordinate efforts on innovative technologies and resources to advance the growth of the built environment,” Gulledge said. “We value this partnership with CIBSE and are excited to leverage this collaboration to move the industry and buildings towards a more sustainable future.”

MacPherson said: “We are delighted to sign this agreement with ASHRAE and strengthen the long-standing relationship between our organisations. The increasing local and global challenges of maintaining safe, healthy and efficient built-environments marks this as a particularly auspicious time to share knowledge and expertise to enhance our offerings for the benefit of both our members and wider society.”

 

Whoosh!

The design and construction of a new building or urban area is a highly complex project, which needs to take into account a plethora of considerations, including safety, durability, aesthetics, energy efficiency, sustainability and cost-effectiveness.

One critical concern is pedestrian wind comfort. The fact that a new structure impacts the microclimate in its vicinity makes wind engineering a serious application to pay attention to for many architects, civil engineers and urban planners.

Depending on its shape, height and location, a building can have a positive or negative impact on wind direction, wind speed, radiation, air pollution and more. Increased wind speeds, for example, is a common phenomenon that appears at the pedestrian level around a high-rise or buildings characterised by a complex shape.

Flatiron Building, New York City

 

A famous example is the Flatiron Building, in New York City, between East 22nd and East 23rd streets. The building splits Broadway and Fifth Avenue and sits at the end of an open passageway created by Madison Square Park, in the north. Due to the geography of its location, the wind currents around the building can be treacherous. The layout of the area, combined with the shape of the building, can create unpredictable gusts of wind, which are uncomfortable for pedestrians. This is actually one of the reasons the building has become so famous since its construction in 1902. The building had raised fears that the structural system would not be able to endure the wind loads, but this has not been the case. The engineers designed it to endure winds four times stronger than are generated on site. Owing to the building’s shape, wind currents from the leading edge of the building move in a vortex pattern in both up and down directions. Nevertheless, pedestrian wind comfort does remain an issue for the iconic building and is a lesson for all new construction projects.

Along with pedestrian comfort, wind safety is even more important, with reports showing cases of serious injuries and even deaths caused by high wind speed in urban areas.

In most countries, construction projects require compliance with a wind engineering standard, such as NEN 8100 for wind nuisance and ASCE 7 for wind loads.

Assessment of pedestrian wind comfort with online CFD simulation (Source: SimScale)

 

In complying with these standards and ensuring pedestrian safety and comfort, engineering solutions are indispensable. Wind tunnel testing and numerical simulation with CFD are the tools used to investigate wind flow around a building configuration or a built-environment.

Wind effects to consider in urban planning

The most important considerations and wind effects in assessing pedestrian wind comfort are corner acceleration, Venturi or channeling effect, downwash effect and passages.

The corners of buildings are the regions that can create the highest discomfort in a built-environment, especially if high-rise buildings are present. The phenomenon of corner acceleration is caused by sharp building shapes, which can cause accelerations around the corners even for oblique winds. Further effects, like the side vortices, can be created from the difference in pressure between the front (with high pressure) and the sides (with low pressure) of the building. In these regions, wind engineering experts recommend not placing any gardens or public spaces, to ensure wind comfort and safety.

CFD simulation showing an example of corner acceleration around buildings (Source: SimScale)

 

The Venturi effect (or channeling effect) is the reduction in wind pressure, which happens when wind flows through a constricted area between two buildings, which results in wind acceleration through this channel. This effect can create high winds, which can be unsafe for pedestrians.

 

CFD simulation showing an example of Venturi or channeling effect between buildings (Source: SimScale)

 

The downwash effect is mainly caused by tall buildings, which capture winds at higher levels and redirect them to the ground. This causes a three-dimensional flow moving downwards and often creating a large recirculation at the ground level, together causing increased wind activity.

The fourth effect, passages, can create a high amplification factor and a strong wind jet, which forms when the flow with high pressure from the stagnation side tries to escape through the passage.

CFD simulation showing an example of downwash and another 3D effect between buildings (Source: SimScale)

 

This article presents a comparison between a CFD simulation study, created by online simulation provider SimScale and experimental results taken from the Guidebook for Practical Applications of CFD to Pedestrian Wind Environment around Buildings, published by the Architectural Institute of Japan (AIJ) in 2008. The guidebook sets the standards for cross-comparison between the results of CFD predictions, wind tunnel tests and field measurements, and is helpful in determining the accuracy of CFD codes for pedestrian wind comfort assessments.

Wind comfort validation study with SimScale online CFD simulation (Source: SimScale)

 

Conclusion 

With the construction industry constantly growing, technological advancements are the driving force behind better urban designs, dedicated to a higher standard of living and increased comfort for residents and pedestrians.

Wind engineering is integrated into a multidisciplinary approach to building design and construction projects. In this set-up, CFD simulation and wind tunnel studies are key solutions in ensuring pedestrian wind comfort and safety. With the emergence of cloud-based simulation software, this technology is becoming more accessible than ever before. Right on time for a new era in urban planning – the future is now.

The writer is Team Manager, Application Engineering, SimScale.

Sustainable solutions, digitalisation are the way ahead

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

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

Dr Udo Huenger, Vice President, Middle East, BASF

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

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

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

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

A case of the market moving ahead of policy

North America generally does not shy away from participating in the dialogue on sustainability, with a number of well-known organisations, certification bodies and manufacturers paving the way for initiatives that promote greater energy efficiency within the built environment, not only across the continent but worldwide.

James Walters

James K. Walters, Vice President, International Affairs, Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI), in identifying trends across North America, states that the work of standardisation bodies in this regard and the uptake of programmes, such as Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) have helped moved the dial towards a more integrated approach in addressing building requirements. “We are supportive of climate change mitigation efforts,” Walters states. “We are supportive of rational energy-efficiency standards and of approaching them holistically.”

Mahesh Ramanujam

Mahesh Ramanujam, President and CEO, United States Green Building Council (USBC), believes that the trend towards more efficient buildings will persist, despite the viewpoint of incumbent powers, emphasising that policy decisions are no longer the sole driver impacting the progress of “Green”. As many as “88 of the Fortune 100 companies have mandated LEED as their global Green Building rating system,” he says. “It is a market-driven tool and a voluntary management tool – it’s not regulation.” Ramanujam says this extends to government organisations, with 400 municipalities, 32 states and 15 federal agencies in the United States mandating and recommending LEED as a best guideline and practice protocol. “This means two decades worth of change management that has happened, globally,” he says. “It has been integrated as part of the core strategy. Sustainability is no longer about being a nice thing to do.”

Giorgio Elia, Vice President, UTC CCS Middle East, shares the company’s history with LEED in this regard. “Carrier was the first company to join the U.S. Green Building Council in 1993,” Elia says, “and is the only company to be a founding member of Green Building councils on four continents, including in Argentina, China, France, India, Kuwait, Singapore and South Africa.” Carrier in the Middle East, he adds, is licensed as an Education Partner to train in the LEED curriculum and has trained more than 500 people in the region. Carrier’s Middle East headquarters in the UAE, he adds, is certified LEED Gold, while Carrier Saudi Arabia’s Jeddah office is certified LEED Platinum.

Saad Ali

Providing a manufacturer’s perspective, Saad Ali, General Manager – Middle East and Africa, SPX Cooling Technologies, says LEED certification is frequently a goal of designers of many North American buildings. He says: “Energy savings is a key driver for many companies, as well, so power consumption is declining. The impact of that will be evident in the next couple of years. Changes in government policies could impact these initiatives with fewer energy credits and subsidy programs available to companies for producing energy-efficient products for the market. But I think overall support for energy-efficient products will continue.”

James Connaughton

Regulations no longer seem to be a pre-requisite to encourage uptake and investment in energy-efficient technology, as James L. Connaughton, President and CEO, Nautilus Data Technologies, says. As an “ardent practitioner of free market environmentalism”, he believes a better product will always win out in the end. Connaughton, however, believes while government policy is not needed to encourage acceptance and investment of better products and solutions, it can play a role in hindering its advancement. This, he says, can happen by taking too long to permit more efficient and environmentally friendly technologies [to enter the market] and subsidising inefficient competitors. “That,” he says, “would not be helpful because government is providing our competitors with the economic advantage to improve their facilities.” Connaughton adds that while energy-efficiency standards are helpful in driving consumers and investors, they tend to work in favour of the incumbent. Thus, he says, they have to be designed appropriately so they can drive faster investment in economically beneficial outcomes and accomplish its objectives.

Ali says that while the rollback of some EPA clean energy rules by the current administration has caused headlines, it hasn’t deterred companies that develop HVAC products from continuing to pursue new technologies. “The recent paradigm shift in lighting serves as an example,” he says. “The introduction of LEDs as replacements for traditional incandescent light bulbs met with some consumer resistance. New technologies are often more expensive until they gain traction and acceptance.”

Kit Fransen

Kit Fransen, Director, Product Management, North America, Tecumseh, adds: “It’s no secret that there has been a shift in how buildings operate, as well as how people live and work in them. The sustainability movement is becoming more mainstream every day and plenty of manufacturers, including Tecumseh, look to reduce their overall environmental footprint, because it is shown to be profitable and drives innovation.” LEED and Green Globes, he says, are just a few programmes that were niche but now have become standard place in most building designs “as you can see with the continued integration of their requirements into ASHRAE or other international standards”. Fransen adds: “To meet these needs, manufacturers and end-users are now making investments with natural refrigerants such as hydrocarbons that require significant investment to operate equipment efficiently and safely. Before LEED or other ‘Green Building’ type standards, most people did not connect the dots regarding how much time we spend in commercial and industrial facilities that can impact our health as well as the world around us.” Ramanujam adds: “In the United States, Republicans and Democrats have disagreements on climate change and ‘Green’, but our growth was strong [even] during the Republican presidency. I’m hoping in the current trend we will grow more. Why? Because it provoked individual engagement, and that is what we are looking for.” LEED, he says, is about taking responsibility and accountability in saying “I want to go further and beyond”. Ramanujam says: “We don’t want somebody to tell us a regulation. We are going to do it, because we believe in it and we are going to push the envelope further. In a subtle way, it’s a good thing for the market, because people are going to do something about it.”

By popular demand

The market does, indeed, seem to be doing something about it, with manufacturers reporting an uptake in consumers showing more willingness to invest in a more efficient technology.

Ali emphasises that technological advancements owing to countries’ efforts to reduce reliance on petrochemicals inevitably cascades to other industries, especially HVAC, which, he stresses, is a high priority for building owners, given that it consumes as much as 70% of energy in commercial buildings. “Every consumer is looking for efficient HVAC units, with the best coefficient of performance and the least energy cost,” he says. “While environmental impact may not be their first consideration, some consumers want to balance energy efficiency with sustainability. Consumers are protected to some degree by regulations that restrict the use of refrigerants that damage the environment and so they know that available products must comply with a range of environmental standards.”

Robert Presser, Vice President, Acme Engineering and GlobeOwl Solutions, also says that he has seen more focus being placed on high-efficiency motors and VAV fans. “Twenty-five years ago, people will look at an air-handling unit and ask, ‘How many cfns?’ Now they look at an AHU and ask, ‘What is my cost to operate this?’ More than the acquisition, stakeholders are looking at life-cycle and operation.” This, he says, comes from building owners paying more attention, as there would be no incentive to choose such products unless otherwise specified.

Rakesh Saxena

Rakesh Saxena, President, Trimac Inc., says there has been an increasing demand for proper sealing of ductwork from building owners and mechanical HVAC construction engineers in North America. The current ASHRAE standard No. 90.1, he says, notes the impact of duct leakage on energy consumption and IAQ. “ASHRAE standards require a duct to be sealed to the Sheet Metal and Air-Conditioning Contractors’ National Association’s Seal Class A regardless of pressure,” he says. “This means that all seams, except spiral lock seams, joints and penetration in medium- and low-pressure, return and exhaust ductwork must be properly sealed.”

Dean Wood

Speaking on increasing emphasis for energy efficient equipment in new build specifications, Dean Wood, Sales and Marketing Manager, Envira- North Systems, says HVLS fans are a common inclusion in all commercial, industrial and institutional buildings.  “More than anything local regulations and cost savings drive designs and purchasing decisions,” he says, adding that the company’s products have gone from a “possible inclusion to an integral component of most specifications”.

Stuart Engel

Stuart Engel, International Business Development, Fresh-Aire UV, says that owing to greater emphasis on energy conversation there has been an uptake in using UV to irradiate the cooling coils in HVAC applications. “Design engineers have realised that by including UV to irradiate cooling coils the end-user can benefit from the fact that the coils will remain clean and not become blocked by biofilm growing,” he says.

Walter Ellis

Walter Ellis, Executive Vice President and General Manager, RGF Environmental Group, echoes this.  “Studies show the correlation of continuous UV treatment of coil surfaces to prevent microbial fouling of the coils,” he says, “and how this technology,in turn, reduces the associated loss of heat transfer efficiency due to the bio-fouled coils.  As well as energy-recovery systems specific for fresh air makeup systems.  These are primarily focused on industrial and commercial markets, with some more progressive adoption in the consumer market.” Engel says, “Depending on the cost of electricity, installing UV on cooling coils can save between 15 and 25% of the annual HVAC energy cost and virtually eliminate having to manually clean the coils. Payback time for installing UV will depend in part on the cost of power, annual operating and cooling hours and will normally be between two and 11 months.”

Sean Holloway, National Sales Manager HVACR, RectorSeal LLC, says the company continues to see greater emphasis towards energy efficiency across North America, in particular, for variable-speed compressors for residential applications, variable refrigerant flow (VRF) technology for commercial applications, and mini-split applications for both residential and light-commercial applications. The company, he says, is aiming to address the demand by helping contractors with accessories to encourage building and homeowners to opt for mini-split and VRF/VRV systems. “More and more individuals,” he says, “are willing to pay more up front, for higher efficiency equipment in order to use less energy, and have less negative impact on the environment in the long run.”

Fransen says that while the past decade has seen Energy Star, LEED, and other programmes push for lower energy use intensity (EUI) in all building types, reduction in energy use for commercial refrigeration has only begun “due to the tackling of “low-hanging fruit” in energy consumption such as lights, HVAC, and process loads.” This, however, is beginning to change. “Recent governmental regulations, such as requirements for walk-in coolers and freezers from the US Department of Energy with a mandated performance level of Annual Walk-In Energy Factor (AWEF) is just the first of many requirements where energy performance will become more regulated in the commercial refrigeration market place,” he says. “Technologies, such as variable-speed components, including fans and compressors, in addition to control strategies such as floating head pressure control will become more common in refrigeration system design.” Fransen adds that in staying abreast with upcoming standards to develop new products surrounding mandated and voluntary programmes, Tecumseh sees variable speed compressors and systems as well as low-GWP refrigerants transitioning over to the commercial market “once energy standards and regulations become more prevalent across the globe”.

Industry 4.0

Another key trend Walters identifies in North America is the growing move towards the use of air conditioning and water heating equipment that are connected and able to talk to the grid and electricity supplier, relative to adjusting supply with demand. “It’s not an on-and-off switch,” he says. Fransen echoes this, adding that the Internet of Things (IoT) and connected devices are quickly changing the way consumers use products, and that the company sees a similar trend in the commercial refrigeration market. “More and more components are connected, which helps end-users with a variety of different tasks, to simplify their work,” he says. “Regarding refrigeration components, some examples could be a means to show diagnostics for quick servicing or a web-based predictive analysis tool that would show when components in a system may potentially fail based on specific parameters.”

Presser adds that LEED certification also plays a role in this. “When you choose to get LEED certification for a building,” he says, “you incorporate a lot of intelligent energy controls.” However, he says, no one is dictating the backbone communication architecture to be used, whether it is an HVACR standard or an industry open standard. Presser says that the adoption of LEED certification will promote greater building intelligence and technology, but that the industry still has a long way to go.

The industry, Presser says, is currently promoting a standard that does not interface with technologies coming into buildings and devices and that he sees a move towards an international standard of communication in the HVACR space. “My feeling,” he says, “is that eventually product developers are going to take a look at the HVACR space and come with an open standard product that will ensure lower cost and ease of connectivity, which will displace proprietary technologies. You also have to realise you have a huge installed space, the opportunity will be when you look at existing buildings and you want to add intelligence. Who will win?”

Ali says that being one of the biggest retrofit markets, North America may be a little ahead of the rest of the world, in terms of planning for maintenance. “Along with new development and construction, there is a lot of renovation, where older buildings are updated and using the latest technologies,” he says. “Predictive maintenance comes into play here. You may have a LEED-certified building equipped with the latest equipment with IoT technology to communicate building conditions 24/7. Without careful monitoring, regular inspection and diligent maintenance, the initial energy efficiency will decline dramatically over the next five years.”

Maintenance, Ali stresses, is an essential component to successful energy management. He adds that though North America is a huge continent with diverse climates and with each state having its own mindset, regulations, capabilities and budget to maintain infrastructure, building owners are more or less aware of the important role that maintenance plays in ensuring a healthier environment, better indoor air quality and better, energy- efficient buildings. “If you are a building manager or owner of commercial real estate,” he says, “that would be in your mindset in order to compete in the marketplace.”

Ali adds that building owners and equipment suppliers need to work together to conduct energy audits and implement ongoing maintenance programmes. “Right now,” he says, “follow up is often lacking, whether it’s in North America, Asia or in the Middle East.”

While HVACR manufacturers in North America navigate the demands of the local market, most operate in a largely international market and grapple with the changing winds of an increasingly globalised and inter-connected consumer base.

Italy pavilion for EXPO 2020 aims to tackle global sustainability challenges, says ambassador

Dubai, UAE, 20 March 2019: The Italian tradition is a mix between beauty and function, said His Excellency Liborio Stellino, Ambassador of Italy to the UAE, following a special preview of the Italian Pavilion for EXPO 2020, presented by Carlo Ratti, Professor, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Founding Partner, Carlo Ratti Associati, and one of the architects that designed the Pavilion during Italian Design Day on March 19, at the American University in Dubai. Stellino stressed that legacy is an important element driving Italy’s participation in EXPO 2020 and that the Pavilion aims to showcase key learnings related to food safety and security and future energy gained from previous Expos in a bid to address the global challenge facing sustainability in a more holistic manner.

Providing a brief history on the country’s long-standing commitment towards sustainable practices, Stellino said: “The importance of energy started in 1973, when we had the first oil crisis. From the time, we tackled problems of energy efficiency, we developed a lot of techniques, technologies and expertise. Today, in Italy, despite the lack of oil and natural resources, we save 20% [of electricity], thanks to better efficiency of buildings.”

Stellino said that despite being associated with classic and traditional buildings, Italy has made great strides in integration of technology for modern infrastructure, owing to the expertise of the engineering and architectural community, stressing that innovation is in their DNA. “The close link between entrepreneurship and art has oriented our design in a more functional way,” Stellino said. Ratti discussed the vital role sustainable cooling plays in modern infrastructure, adding that while the Italian pavilion will be generally cooled using air conditioning, there is a move to incorporate passive cooling design elements to make the most of the time of the year, when the UAE has cooler temperatures.

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