The virtue of ambition
The most environmentally friendly and cheapest energy is that which is not consumed in the first place,” says Thomas Damm, Technical Manager, Sector Department, Air Conditioning and Ventilation Technology, VDMA. This, he says, is why energy efficiency is viewed as key to unlocking the country’s objectives, namely Climate Action Programme’s 2020 interim target of a 40% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions compared to 1990 levels, as well as those under the German National Action Plan on Energy Efficiency (NAPE).
With the building sector accounting for 40% of final energy consumption in Germany, and around one-third of greenhouse gas emissions, Damm says, the sector plays a key role in the country’s comprehensive energy and climate policies. “To this end, the German government has set itself the ambitious goal of achieving an almost climate-neutral building stock by 2050,” he says. “This means that primary energy requirements will be reduced by 80%, compared with 2008.” To achieve this, Damm says, the energy requirement for heating and cooling, as well as for ventilation technology, must be significantly reduced through efficiency measures and the share of renewable energies, in meeting the remaining demand, significantly increased.
With European and national laws impacting air conditioning and ventilation technology, Damm says the challenge for politics and the industry is to decouple CO2 emissions from economic growth. “In Germany, in addition to the Renewable Energy Sources Act (EEG), the German Energy Saving Ordinance (EnEV) is primarily relevant,” he says. “The latter implements Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) nationally and defines energy requirements for buildings and the technical building systems and installations contained therein. In addition to air conditioning and ventilation technology, this includes heating technology.”
Citing the September 2018 prohibition of the marketing of high-voltage halogen lamps in the European Union (EU) as an example of the continuous impact political programmes have on technologies’ market viability, Damm highlights the political will in the EU to steer markets toward its environmental agenda. Jens Schuberth, Umweltbundesamt (UBA; The Germany Environment Agency), believes German HVAC manufacturers are
on track when it comes to complying with regulations, due to the time afforded to them prior to the implementation, based on observing new product lines, with features reflecting the new requirements.
Forces driving manufacturers’ compliance
While Schuberth says market compliance is also reflective of Germany’s recognition of EU directives as a member state, Damm adds that voluntary adoption can also be attributed to system operators’ move to cut operating costs. “The continuous increase in the number of central ventilation and air-conditioning units equipped with heat-recovery measures, shows that this can also be done without bans,” Damm says. “Numerous factors can be decisive here — rising energy costs, certification systems for buildings user requirements or financial support measures by the public sector and/or state financial institutions.” Ultimately, Damm says, it is a mixture of instruments, constraints and incentives from stakeholders.
David Miller, Managing Director, Ziehl-Abegg Middle East, provides a manufacturer’s perspective, saying that while, admittedly, the move towards energy-efficient solutions is influenced by political pressure, many customers are also seeing the advantages of investing in such technologies with an eye towards operational savings. “When it comes to design, people are changing their ways,” he says, “which is positive in our point of view.”
Markus-Erich Strohmeier, Senior Executive Vice President, Siemens Building Technologies – Middle East, echoes the need to comply with customer requirements. “When considering cost, we believe it’s important to take into account the lifecycle of the technology and the impact it will have on the efficiency, availability, reliability and operating costs of a customer’s infrastructure during that time,” he says. “Ultimately, we want to ensure that our customers have all the data they need to make an informed choice regarding a product or supplier.”
Bissan Abbas, Managing Director, Techem Energy Services Middle East FZCO, adds that the growing attractiveness of energy-efficient solutions over conventional systems is also driven by rising costs in bigger cities over the years and that compliance with regulations has encouraged stakeholders to thoroughly study ROI to reach a break-even point.
The need for more stringent market surveillance and enhanced efforts towards IAQ
Overall, Damm says that manufacturers view regulations as positive tools for market transformation, towards more efficient products and systems. “It has also been shown in the past that German companies, in particular, with their highly developed products, manufactured with very good quality, have a market advantage — albeit limited in time — over competitors from outside the EU.” This advantage, he stresses, would be even higher if the market surveillance stipulated by the European legislator and given to the EU member states for implementation is carried out.
“However, the system is unfortunately weak and also makes market access possible for products that do not comply with EU law,” Damm says.
Schuberth echoes this, adding that despite energy efficiency inspections on air conditioners having been introduced in Germany as early as 2007, as part of the EU [Energy Performance of Buildings] Directive requirement, this has not been carried out to the extent necessary or expected. The inspections, Schuberth stresses, aimed to identify areas of improvement for building owners, in order to present them with the most economically attractive solution. “Three years ago, Germany started to register all inspections,” he says. “Only one-tenth of the inspections that people expected were carried out. So, there is quite a lack of surveillance and this is a great potential to improve air conditioning and ventilation.”
Another potential area of improvement that Damm believes requires greater attention is IAQ, which, he says, merits the same enthusiasm afforded to energy efficiency. “It is well known and proven that good IAQ is profitable in many ways,” he says, pointing to the indoor comfort in offices, shopping centres and schools, “but currently there are no legal requirements yet related to IAQ in residential and non-residential sectors.
What is there are recommendations from the WHO and the Federal Environment Agency in Germany. However, these are merely recommendations, compliance with which is not mandatory.” Damm says that this is incomprehensible, given that people spend most of their time inside buildings, arguing that much has already been said about the importance of energy efficiency.
Damm stresses that it is important that IAQ and energy efficiency are not considered separately or played off against each other. “The filter industry shows and proves it,” he says. “High-quality air filters enable a higher IAQ, with comparable or lower lifecycle costs over the service life of the filters. And this also applies to higher acquisition costs compared to lower-quality air filters. Improving the efficiency of air filters can help to ensure that IAQ does not remain a stepchild.”
Germany is not sitting on its laurels, as new regulations are underway that could potentially address these gaps. Damm says manufacturers and users are eagerly awaiting the new revision and redesign of legislation for buildings and technical installations, which has been announced by politicians for some time. “Specifically, the existing national legal provisions of the Energy Saving Act (EnEG), the Energy Saving Ordinance (EnEV) and the Renewable Energies Heat Act (EEWärmeG) are to be combined into a new regulation,” he says. “This awaited regulation is called the German Energy Act for Buildings (GEG).”
Schuberth says the lack of market surveillance and inspections could be addressed by the new regulations, recommending more effective controls over the energy performance certificates of the buildings. “There is the idea to have information in the building certificate of existing air conditioners that had to be inspected,” he says. “If the energy performance certificate were to be controlled, they could ask for inspection of air conditioners. It’s quite an indirect way that we hope could have some effect.”
Schuberth says that, additionally, gaps in market surveillance could be addressed by making air conditioners smarter, through the integration of monitoring equipment that detect operational efficiency and report to building owners in the event there are deficiencies. While promising, Schuberth says, this would be mainly applicable to new air conditioners.
Industry 4.0: The inevitability of the Internet of Things
With this recommendation, Schuberth touches on another observable trend in Germany: digitalisation. Citing “Industry 4.0” as the buzzword for 2018 in Germany and Europe, Damm says the advancing digitalisation in production and enhanced communication of devices offers new possibilities towards greater efficiency.
Miller shares a similar observation, reporting that customers are demanding more from their products. “The buzz word is cyber-physical systems,” he says. “Everything speaking to each other and manufacturers offering a lot more feedback that we did in the past.” Miller says this has prompted Ziehl-Abegg to work towards having the capability to connect networks to physical devices, such as sensor fans, frequency inverters and motors, to monitor health and efficiency. “This is an exciting time for us in terms of innovation dictated by our customers and this shift towards energy savings,” he says.
Strohmeier highlights how digitalisation is changing “the way we plan, design, build and operate infrastructure”. He says, “We see technologies, such as augmented reality and virtual reality increasing efficiency over the whole lifecycle of a building. Remote access, maintenance and servicing is gaining increasing relevance, and indoor positioning technology also has the potential to revolutionise the way we manage our infrastructure.”
Strohmeier stresses that Building Information Modeling (BIM) is a key topic that will have significant impact on the HVACR market.
Damm describes BIM as a developing tool for the optimised execution of construction projects. “BIM can and should consider all phases,” he says, “In the best case, BIM accompanies a building or plant from the first stroke of a pen to its demolition.” Damm stresses that through BIM, planning can be done in a cost-effective way to avoid typical building hazards and problems, such as, for example collisions of ducts and tubes, which can be identified early on in the design phase, and addressed by developing and implementing the most suitable solution. He adds that BIM also helps data management to optimise operation and maintenance. “Functioning BIM projects, which are kept up-to-date over the entire period of time, can prevent losses of important information, such as design calculations, design and construction plans or product documentation,” he says. “BIM is a growing system into which all participants must contribute. Anyone who deals with BIM and its possibilities will recognise the opportunities and risks.”
Rolf Werner, Director Application Engineering, Wieland, weighs in, saying that he believes that Germany is, in fact, lagging behind other countries in terms of automation, especially when it comes to BIM. However, Werner commends the platform’s ability to supply necessary data for an integrated process.
Enablers of energy efficiency
While the country still has some way to go, Damm says German companies’ commitment to sustainability has helped paved the way for manufacturers to be technological leaders, globally. “The applicable regulations and their enforcement in the market have a major influence on the use of sustainable technology outside the EU,” he says. “It is clear to see that numerous states in the Middle East are using ordinances and technical regulations as basis for buildings and technical building systems to become increasingly more efficient.”
To underscore his point, Damm says that in the first half of 2018, North Africa and the Middle East accounted for approximately three per cent of air-handling technologies’ total exports. Damm adds that sales of the German air conditioning, ventilation and refrigeration technology industry are expected to grow by a total of five per cent in 2018. Calling German manufacturers, “enablers” in the sector, Damm says, it is only a matter of time before the efficiency wave also reaches farther regions of the world.
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.
Facilio-led conference highlights challenges related to digitalisation in FM
The challenge faced by FM companies after having adopted digitalisation, in an attempt to establish measurable value and return on investments (ROI) was one of the key points of a panel discussion during Future Proof, a conference Dubai-based Facilio hosted on March 14 at the Palace Down Town in Dubai.
FM professionals in the region attended the conference. The panelists in the discussion included Fahad Mohamed, Technical Head FM, Deyaar Properties; Andrea Deutschbein, Director FM, EMAAR Malls Group; Stephen Hayes, Head of Facilities and Engineering (MENA), Marriott International and Sangeetha B, Deputy CEO, Al Fajer Facilities Management.
While moderating the discussion, Prabhu Ramachandran, Founder and CEO, Facilio, said: “Today, there is disparity, where few companies are highly digitised, while others are still on paper.” The ultimate digitalisation for real-estate, he said, is when you are able to monitor what’s happening in your building while being placed anywhere in the world.
Sharing her experience on how Al Fajer FM has embraced digitalisation, Sangeetha, said, “Technology has a large part to play in every organisation, and it also a part of our strategy.” Embracing technology, she added, enables FM companies to offer a comprehensive range of solutions. However, one challenge faced is that technology is not being readily accepted by clients as they don’t always see the value and are just looking at the cost factor, she added. “What needs to be understood,” she added, “is the ROI will come after six months to a year, post the adoption of technology.”
Sharing his experience, Hayes said: “We started adopting technology around 16 to 17 years ago and over the years.” We had all the activities in a single tool and would do quarterly reports with real-time reporting, he said. Highlighting the present situation on how the companies use dashboards to give cue into each of the properties throughout the world, he added, “Today, I can click into the property and drill down into the technician working on each property.” For the last three years, he said, we have got into measuring and using QR codes, Wi-Fi and real-time data, which enables us to monitor 250 properties across the Middle East region.
While the overall sentiment on the adoption of technology was positive, Mohamed highlighted that the main challenge was getting the buy-in from stakeholders. “There is a lot of technology available in the market; however, the challenge is in proving to the customer that it will be an added value,” he said. Elaborating, Sangeetha also pointed to a missing link in the adoption of technology in FM and said: “FM is a strategic player; however, what’s missing is that the client has to understand that adopting technology will be a value-add.” Echoing the thought was Deutschbein. She said: “FM is a big player, from both the client’s side and the service provider’s side.” The cost, she said, is always going to be a factor; however, we cannot cost cut for the sake of it, and standards cannot be compromised on.”
Pointing to personal experience, Mohamed added that in the year 2013, the company started off by connecting buildings to a system, which was remarkable. Utilising it, he said, helped remove BMS operators. The site, he added, is remotely monitored. As a result, he said, it also led to data collection. As if echoing Mohamed, Sangeetha said: “The adoption of technology has shifted focus to data collection, and I cannot stress enough on the importance of collecting data.” Elaborating on how it helps with any kind of analysis, she said, “Data helps in improving our services and will help study the ROI.” Elaborating on how Marriott International has been outsourcing the technology within the scope of FM to different teams, Hayes said, “Even our sub-contractors make use of technology, and we train them on how to use the tool.”
Biomimicry profiling reduces CO2 consumption
Kuenzelsau, Baden-Wurttemberg, Germany, 21 March 2019: Ziehl-Abegg said through a Press communiqué that it is further utilising biomimicry in a bid to bolster its efforts towards mitigating climate change. To further reduce CO2 consumption, the company said through the communiqué, the humpback whale served as the model for the latest composite material fan development, which also incorporates biomimicry features of owls and trees. This improves the carbon footprint equally in two ways – through a significant reduction in the material used as well lower energy consumption, when operating in climate control equipment and industrial ventilation systems.
Ziehl-Abegg, the communiqué said, is already at more than 70% peak efficiency with its centrifugal fans, so every opportunity for the optimisation of performance must be utilised. The new centrifugal impeller possesses features of three completely different approaches to Biomimicry: from both aerodynamics (ornithology) and hydrodynamics (marine biology) and biomechanics (trees), the communiqué said. Savings in material content and improved aerodynamics halve CO2 emissions associated with manufacturing, whilst maintaining the same ventilation performance, the communiqué added. Modern injection-moulding tools, each costing more than half a million euros, enable the company to implement the geometries, which have been optimised through the application of Biomimicry, the communiqué further added.
According to the communiqué, the trailing edges of the fan blades are modelled on the owl wing. “As the quietest bird of prey, the owl has already been used as a role model for several designs,” said Peter Fenkl, CEO. Serrated trailing edges of fans are now seen as a trademark of Ziehl-Abegg. In the new fan however, the design of the serrations was a little smoother, the communiqué said.
Evolution has optimised the flow efficiency of the humpback whale overall in such a way that, despite its body size, it is considered a very good and agile swimmer. If this had not been the case, it would also have been unable to make its long journeys through the world’s oceans without having to feed. The latest generation of centrifugal fans at Ziehl-Abegg is now benefitting from this knowledge of biomimicry, the communiqué said.
The developers at Ziehl-Abegg, the communiqué said, also drew inspiration from Professor Claus Mattheck. The “tree whisperer” or “tree pope”, “as the media call him, creates a bridge between nature and technology. The professor is, after all, a pioneer of the science of biomechanics. Trees are a prime example of optimum strength with minimum use of materials. The five blades of the centrifugal ZAbluefin fan, the communiqué said, merge into both the cover and back plate in exactly the same way as trees grow upwards – at a slight radius to the ground. This is scarcely visible with the naked eye, because the curves, which mimic a tree, are minimal. Nevertheless, these bionic approaches in the blade transition provide the same strength as heavy wings – enabling the use of materials to be significantly reduced. Less material consumption in production also means a lower carbon footprint, the communiqué said.
According to the communiqué, the air flow in centrifugal fans hits the fan blades at different angles, depending on the volume flow. The whale has to overcome similar challenges when swimming in the sea – the movement of the fins causes their angular position to constantly change. If its pectoral fins were to be positioned at too steep an angle to the opposing current, strong turbulence would result in the water separating from the fins. “High flow losses and noise are characteristic features of strong turbulence,” said Dr Walter Angelis, Technical Director, Ziehl-Abegg. The design of the fins on a humpback whale has been optimised over millions of years. That’s why the leading edges of the whale fins contain golf ball-sized nodules (technical term: tubercle). This allows an animal weighing 25 to 30 tonnes to swim very quickly and nimbly using its long pectoral fins. “We recreated this aspect at the leading edge of the fan blades and implemented it in the form of a rippled surface,” Angelis said.
The flow engineers also took a closer look at the whale’s tail fin, the “fluke”, the communiqué said. The V-shaped contour of the tail fin section, the communiqué said, delays any potential flow separation – which enables the fan to be used for numerous pressure ranges. The latest generation of centrifugal fans at Ziehl-Abegg, the communiqué said, is now benefitting from this knowledge of biomimicry.