MEP Middle East takes a tour of Trox's Air Flow Studio
Given the intense year round heat and the unrelenting humidity in the Middle East, having an air conditioning system around you is a matter of necessity, rather than the luxury it is perceived to be in other parts of the world.
However, the pay off for achieving this modicum of comfort is excessive energy usage, which has led to the UAE and its GCC neighbours acquiring the dubious distinction of being amongst the countries with the largest carbon footprint per capita in the world.
While there have been genuine efforts to cut down on emissions and introduce energy efficiency into the mainstream, there remains significant challenges in the battle to bring air-conditioning use and emissions on an even keel.
However, one company has not only embraced the challenge, but has also been among the first in the region to take some form of pre-emptive action.
That company is Trox Middle East, the Dubai based subsidiary of Trox Technix, the German air handling company. Having initially entered Dubai in the 1970s, Trox has extensive knowledge of the region’s unique demands on air conditioning, and has been active in promoting sustainable, high-quality air-conditioning for nearly 30 years.
Following a hiatus from 1990 to 1996, during which the company left the country, Trox re-established itself in Dubai through the launch of a representative office under the sponsorship of Mohammad Al Bassam, founder of the Ace Group of Companies.
Since then, the company has worked on a number of prestigious projects including the Burj Al Arab Hotel, the Mall of the Emirates, Dubai Airport and the Conference Palace Hotel Abu Dhabi, among others.
While the move back to Dubai can be termed as a success for Trox, its management here have bigger plans for the company. Chief among them is the establishment of Trox as a ‘centre of excellence’ in the region, and becoming a one-stop shop for companies that are seeking bespoke air-conditioning tailored to their specific needs.
This has seen the establishment of the first Air Flow Studio in the UAE, if not the Middle East, a testing facility that allows the company to test the efficiency and usability of its products in a controlled environment, while allowing Trox to demonstrate their products to the best effect.
Essentially a sealed glass walled compartment set up in Trox’s offices in Al Quoz, Dubai, the air flow studio contains a barrage of ultrasensitive sensors and probes that measure the air flow coming from the company’s equipment and products that are set up to replicate real-life conditions in offices, homes and other areas of day-to-day activity.
Thomas Orr, sales director, Trox Middle East, says that the studio allows the company to show clients what can be achieved on their projects without even visiting the locations that need to be serviced.
“This enables a client to take any uncertainty out of a design solution,” Orr explains during a tour of the facility.
“If you’re a client and you want to stimulate your design requirement, you’re welcome to bring your desk and computers here. You can show us a mock up of your area, we can put it in, do the measurement tests and then we can let you know, with those conditions, what you’re going to get,” he adds.
“We’ll do tests and you can see the volume of air we’re providing, what the supply air temperature is, and what the room temperature is, so that we can get all the facts and figures off there. We can run the test, and then afterwards, we can get a print out to show what we’ve achieved.”
The studio works through installing a number of specially configured mannequins, or ‘heat load simulators’, which simulate the body heat of human beings in the room. The mannequins are equipped with electric heating cables that emit heat of about 85W, the equivalent of a living person sitting at a desk.
“We want to be sure that when somebody occupies the conditioned space, they’re not feeling a draft because the velocity of the air coming across them is too high, and also that they’re not feeling a chill, because the change in air temperature is so great, they can feel it, which is what can make them feel uncomfortable,” says Orr.
In addition, the studio has heated walls that allow it simulate loads external to the room, such as sunlight from the outside.
Standing in the centre of the studio, at the optimum position to receive all the airflows coming across the room, is a probe stand that measures and records temperatures and velocities at various heights.
This probe stand is what allows the engineers at Trox to record their readings and show customers what exactly needs to be done to ensure that they get the best out of their air-conditioning systems.
Once the tests commence, the sealed off room has smoke pumped into it, allowing engineers and customers to see if the air flow patterns that they are aiming for are coming out correctly.
This is especially useful when it comes to installing specially designed air diffusers, whether floor, wall or ceiling mounted.
“You can see the air stream come together in the middle of the room, collide and then drop, and also go out to the façade walls, and then drop and begin to induce,” says Orr.
“The room sizes, the position of the probes, how much air we put in, what system we were using, the velocity and temperature at each point of the probe, all the information we require, shows up on the reading.”
“You take that away, you say, ‘gee, this great, we know what we’re getting,’ or you say, ‘no, this is still too high, what do we need to do?’
“Do we change the temperatures, air flow quantity, room conditions, or do we get a different piece of equipment to satisfy our requirement, those types of things,” he asks.
Orr adds that the reason the studio was created was so that the company could create
bespoke solutions for its customers.
“We don’t want to stop at getting you the right diffuser. We want to provide you the right diffuser; we want to match it to the right volume control device. We want to match that to the right filters, then the right air distribution device – whatever is needed to provide a well engineered, high-quality air distribution system,” he explains.
Keeping in mind the environmental challenges in the region, isn’t a problem for the company, says Orr, given that all its products conform to European environment standards, which are far more stringent than the ones currently in the Middle East.
With a number of products designed for energy efficient buildings, such as chilled beams, volume flow regulators and displacement flow products, the company is well prepared for the green revolution that is underway in the Middle East.
Thus, by testing these products in the air-flow studio, it allows them the opportunity to show customers that it really works in a cost effective, green friendly manner.
“We���ve been designing products for this region for thirty five years, so the Middle East’s issues aren’t new to us in any way. We have product ranges from our subsidiaries that are suited for this environment,” says Orr.
“We’ve been here since the mid 1970s. In that time, we’d like to think we’ve got a pretty good understanding of what’s required and how to overcome those challenges.”
With the help of the Air-Flow Studio, Trox has taken a giant leap towards eliminating those challenges before they even begin to raise their heads.
This not only provides a valuable, cost effective service to their customers, but also indirectly, highlighting the importance of pre-planning and perfection to the industry.