Getting energised in the GCC

Energy consumption within the GCC is among the highest in the world measured on a per capita basis. Now building asset owners throughout the region are turning to FMs to make desperately needed savings as energy prices rise and developers become more cost conscious.

Last month, the Dubai Biotechnology and Research Park (DuBiotech) announced that all of its buildings would be built to meet standards of Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED).

In a region not particularly well known for energy efficient design, it was a significant departure from the status quo.

LEED is the leading rating system for 'green buildings'.


This benchmark in sustainable buildings is being increasingly adopted in the region and it represents a significant shift in the way designers, developers, contractors and FMs design, build and service buildings in the region.

Executive director of DuBiotech, Dr Abdulqader Al Khayat says: “Across the world, organisations are waking up to the need to build more sustainable businesses.

It is important that we commit to practices that ensure our infrastructure is environmentally sound.

The adoption of such policies is essential to secure our long-term economic development.”

Once certified, the headquarters complex will be one of the largest green buildings in the world and is due for completion by mid 2007.

Energy efficiency is just one part of the LEED evaluation but this will allow for considerable cost and energy consumption savings, with floor air conditioning and solar shading being the main reduction catalysts in a building.

Due to its hot and humid climate, best practice energy initiatives in other parts of the world are often difficult to transfer to the GCC.

Here in the Middle East, if you take vehicles out of the equation (these produce most of the carbon emissions here), air conditioning within buildings is what consumes the most energy.

There are many different ways in which FMs can reduce energy consumption within the facilities they manage.

When companies and FMs in the GCC consider how they can help reduce energy consumption, the first thing they should be thinking about is the cooling system, as this accounts for between 60 and 70% (winter and summer) of consumption in a building.

In modern buildings, the cooling systems are run in conjunction with the heating and ventilation to form an integrated approach called HVAC (Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning).

Zeyad Almajed, general manager of the International Energy Group, explains the consumption hierarchy as follows: Between 60% and 70% goes on cooling costs, with 15% being spent on the lighting (electricity) and around 8% on hot water.

A further 2% can be traced back to cooking while 5% goes on other uses.

When thinking about a building’s energy consumption, it’s important to start with the area that consumes the most.

“First of all I’ll look at the cooling.

If I’m using HVAC, I’ll look at cooling and hot water together,” says Almajed.

“Then I’ll look at electricity. All of a sudden I’m much more comfortable dealing with this 15% of my energy consumption as I’ve handled the biggest chunk, the 70%.”

With Dubai in particular growing at an increase of 15% a year, it is vital for the FM and the rest of the project team to be aware of processes and technologies that can be put in place to help reduce energy consumption in buildings.

There is some $10bn of investment planned for the next 10 years in the regional power sector, while the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA) alone hopes to add over 4,000MW of power generation in the next five years, requiring at least five new generating plants.

The Gulf Power Grid development is already underway, which will ultimately link the UAE with Bahrain, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Oman and Qatar and individual states all have major power projects under construction.

But simply throwing money at the problem by continually increasing generation is only part of the solution.

Businesses need to buy into using the best available technologies in the market to help reduce consumption and domestic consumers need to be educated about energy and water conservation, with similar initiatives to those we have seen across Europe.

One interesting factor is that a fairly substantial part of the population is made up of tourists or business visitors.

Few of us are energy and water conscious when on holiday or when staying in a hotel and any initiatives we may have at home tend to take a holiday as well.

“There needs to be some kind of motivation or incentive for people in public buildings to save energy by appealing to their conscience.

They need to be made aware that energy has a value, it needs to be preserved,” says Piort Szkudlarek, operations manager, Energy Management Services (EMS).

“It cannot be carelessly left without any attention, like a dripping tap or a light that is on all the time.”

Almajed argues the most efficient way to deal with this problem, to help reduce energy consumption and cut costs is by moving the cooling load onto a gas grid and using solar thermal power to augment it.

“We have to learn something from the US and Canada.

Their house heating sits on a gas grid not an electric one.

More efficient and more economical.

Why is our cooling still electric?”

As a whole, the GCC has minimal rainfall and limited fresh water.

The consumption per person is extremely high and tonnes of water is used every day to keep gardens looking fresh, flowers looking alive and artificial lakes looking full.

As a result, energy and water have to be closely linked to ensure there is enough water being produced to meet these demands.

Currently, water is supplied via large-scale seawater desalination which not only uses a lot of energy (the demand for water means more electricity is used) but costs a great deal – water costs more per litre than petrol.

The DEWA website gives helpful and practical advice on water and electricity conservation, but this is mainly aimed at domestic users.

For example, it tells you to take a shower rather than a bath, clean driveways and sidewalks with a broom instead of the hose etc.

In a bid to reinforce its commitment to energy conservation, DEWA has also started to target people by SMS (short messaging service).

They recently sent out a number of text messages saying “conserving electricity and water is a patriotic and religious responsibility.

Save now for a better tomorrow.”

When thinking about buildings and how they consume and recycle water, this is generally separated down into two areas – namely wash water and waste water.

“If facility management is taken care of in the earlier stages, it would allow for water to be collected and recycled,” explains Szkudlarek.

By using solar power to heat water instead of every residence using conventional electric water heaters, the pressure on the electricity grid could be considerably reduced.

This could be one way to help reduce consumption. Another way is the use of a BMS.

Building management systems are a common integrated solution for FMs and one that if used correctly, can manage buildings very efficiently.

Szkudlarek goes on to explain: “The amount of information that can be generated from the BMS is huge.

It is up to the users of the system to properly understand what BMS is telling them because if they don’t know how to use it, BMS is useless.”

He also says that due to the amount of new modules being marketed, the BMS needs to be updated on a frequent basis.

One very positive development within the region has been the growth of district cooling.

Essentially a central plant chills water and then distributes this to buildings where it is used to cool the air in the HVAC system, rather than use traditional chiller units.

These systems are said to cut energy consumption by up to 60% as well as reducing maintenance costs.

The International Energy Group thinks using renewable energy to help reduce consumption is also the way forward.

“We’re looking at using renewables for cooling because that’s the biggest hit.

We’re targeting mixed-use developers, the environmental agencies, power and water utilities, gas companies and transportation authorities.

We’re looking at the whole picture,” says Almajed.

Contact details:

International Energy Group
Zeyad Almajed, general manager
Tel: +971 4 297 7741

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