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Cooling the GCC

The extreme heat of the GCC region means that air-conditioning is a necessity. Hugo Berger looks into how firms are coupling this with a need to be energy efficient.

Numerous studies have found that poorly installed or maintained air-conditioners can cause lung diseases.
Numerous studies have found that poorly installed or maintained air-conditioners can cause lung diseases.

The extreme heat of the GCC region means that air-conditioning is a necessity. Hugo Berger looks into how firms are coupling this with a need to be energy efficient.

With the desire to be more environmentally-friendly, developers and contractors are having to turn to cutting edge research and development to curtail the huge amounts of energy expended on air-conditioning.

Without the cool air systems, living in the region would be almost unbearable.

But construction companies are realising that research and development is required to reduce energy output.

The air-conditioning market is notoriously competitive, but a number of companies are bringing in new eco-friendly products which they hope will give them an edge over other products.

One of these is Trane, which has just launched its new Tracer AdaptiView system.

Peter Blanchflower, marketing manager, Trane Middle East, Africa and India, believes the system has clear-cut advantages over its rivals.

He says: "The construction sector is always under pressure to deliver on schedule, in accordance with the specification at the lowest price.

"This often forces the contractor to break the project down in to the smallest elements in an effort to exert maximum control and visibility.

"This model has served the industry well for years, but often misses opportunities that are only available when addressing the whole system."

Tracer AdaptiView chiller is a computerised system which allows building operating staff to control the temperature of each area of the building.

Blanchflower says that contractors could make benefits by delivering a whole heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system (HVAC).

He says: "We are able to work with the installer and designer to deliver HVAC systems, including factory-commissioned controls what, when viewed as a whole, can actually save time and reduce risk on the project and thereby reduce total costs."

Another new technology which has gained popularity in the region recently is variable refrigerant flow (VRF).

Recent research from the UK-based Building Services Research and Information Association (BSRIA) found that the systems are the fastest growing product types in the world.

The research found that the VRF market is growing at a double-figure percentage rate across the world.

The system was introduced in Japan more than 20 years ago and has already gained popularity in European markets.

Until recently the systems' outdoor units were unsuitable for use in the region due to climatic conditions.

However, recent innovations mean this is no longer the case and many manufacturers are offering VRF systems especially designed for these markets.

The systems are ductless and transfer heat by circulating refrigerant to evaporators located near or within individual zones.

Conventional systems transfer heat from the space to the refrigerant by circulating air or water throughout the building.

VRF systems are suitable to most buildings which have several different zones which all require individual heat controls.

This includes schools, hotels, high-rise offices or shopping malls.

One company which is leading the way in introducing VRF systems is Daikin.

Recently the company introduced a water-cooled version for use in new-build commercial projects where no roof or external space is available for outdoor condensing units.

Because it is very quiet, it can be used for areas where stringent noise restrictions apply.

The system can be also be fitted to an existing chilled water/cooling tower circuit during refurbishments.

Saidja Geirnaert, general manager, Daikin Middle East says the system had numerous advantages over its competitors.

These included energy efficiency and the fact that its lightweight design meant it could be installed simply and speedily.

Geirnaert says: "The small-bore piping system can be installed quickly on a floor-by-floor basis so that sections of a building can be put in use quickly.

"This means that the air-conditioning system can be commissioned and operated in stages rather than on final completion."

But ease of construction is not the only issue affecting the air-conditioning market.

Numerous studies have found that poorly installed or maintained air-conditioners can cause lung diseases by spreading dust, spores and, in extreme cases, deadly illnesses like Legionnaire's Disease.

Panasonic recently launched its E-Ion air purifying system in the Middle East.

The company claims it is the first one to have a built-in air purifier.

Abby Thomas, marketing and sales manager, Panasonic Middle East, said that although the product was only available in individual units, the firm was soon to launch the product in a bulk-buy model for developers and contractors.

He says: "My advice to MEP companies is, if you want an air-conditioner that lasts a long period of time and if you are concerned with the people staying in your building, then don't go for the package-type air conditioner.

"Any heavy-duty, commercial product doesn't have the filtration process, they just pump the same air from room to room.

"Although the initial costs are a bit more, you will make savings in the long run by saving energy."

He adds that the E-Ion system not only led to cleaner, healthier air, it was more efficient in the extreme heats of the GCC.

"During the summer, when the temperature outside crosses 50C, then many of the compressors fails.

"So this year we have introduced 55C compressors. Among other manufacturers, we are the only ones who can operate at this level.

"With this 55C compressor, even though the temperature goes up, if it is a 52C compressor, it is working at maximum and will use a lot of energy.

"In terms of energy saving, we are 15% better than a 52C compressor."

And saving energy is perhaps the key issue affecting the area's construction industry and all the companies were keen to boast their green credentials.

Blanchflower says: "At Trane, we work with facility owners, developers, designers and installers at a senior level to reduce operating costs and raise productivity over the life of the building."

But he says that more needed to be done.

"Whilst a great deal of work is being undertaken by Trane and many others to deliver HVAC systems that are more efficient and therefore environmentally sustainable, clearly much more effort and progress are required."

Trane recently commissioned a report into energy efficiency, which found energy analysis software could help reduce costs.

The report's author, systems engineer Chris Hsieh, said that the software could help design systems which could save up to 30% in energy costs.

He says: "High efficiency shouldn't stop at chillers. Ancillary equipment, such as water pumps and cooling towers, can help save even more energy and money.

"A system designed with low flow of water and air can reduce energy consumption at several areas in the system.

"Less water flows through the system and it uses smaller pipes and pumps."

As the quest to be more environmentally friendly becomes more urgent, air-conditioning companies are embracing the challenge.

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