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Can duct cleaning help avoid kitchen fires?

fmME reviews the GCC’s duct and kitchen extraction system cleaning sector

Keep it clean: Duct cleaning should consider various factors, Eulen ME’s CEO says.
Keep it clean: Duct cleaning should consider various factors, Eulen ME’s CEO says.

Last month, Eng Hussain Nasser Lootah, director general of Dubai Municipality, said that the agency’s Air Quality Monitoring Stations Network has received the prestigious European Standard Compliance certificate, making it the first government entity at the national and the regional level to receive the accreditation.

Remarking on the receipt of the certificate, Lootah said Dubai Municipality is keen to adopt advanced technologies and techniques for the air quality sector, “which has become an urgent need at present, and among the priorities of paramount importance”.

Indeed, air quality is rapidly evolving as one of the regional construction and property markets’ more pressing concerns. In July 2016, Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA) hosted a seminar titled ‘The Impact of Interiors on Air Quality’, organised by the Emirates Green Building Council (EmiratesGBC), at its Sustainable Building in Al Quoz, Dubai.

EmiratesGBC’s seminar addressed issues related to indoor air quality and regulations that govern paints and solvents based on their volatile organic compound (VOC) content.

Saeed Al Abbar, chairman of EmiratesGBC, said indoor air quality could improve occupants’ productivity.

Al Abbar continued: “Improving indoor air quality is a key facet of sustainable buildings impacting the wellness of residents and productivity of employees in the long run.

“Through simple and actionable steps, such as the usage of the right products and proper ventilation systems, indoor air quality can be improved, thus contributing to a greener and cleaner building.”

The session also addressed the importance of raising awareness about selecting the right equipment, as well as regularly cleaning and maintaining ventilation systems. Meanwhile, in conversation with fmME, Robin Gibbs, managing director at Tetra Axis, highlights the drawbacks of not implementing the right duct cleaning programme at the right time.

Tetra Axis is ISO 9001- and ISO 14001-certified, and its microbial grease digester, Drain-Life, is accredited under the Emirates Conformity Assessment Scheme by Emirates Authority for Standardisation and Metrology (ESMA).

Tetra Axis’s service portfolio includes kitchen extraction system management. In November 2015, Tetra was approached by Emaar Properties to provide a test to determine the effectiveness of Drain-Life, in dealing with accumulation of fat, oil, and grease in its two major 3,500l grease traps.

Data independently recorded by Emaar’s FM service provider showed that after 12 days of Tetra Axis’s application of Drain-Life, the layer of fat in the grease traps was reduced by 67% from 150mm to 50mm. Odours emanating from the grease trap were also notably reduced.

Commenting on the significance of duct cleaning programmes in the catering sector, Gibbs tells fmME: “If grease builds up, then [even] a couple of sparks could lead to a fire.

“So it is imperative that when a kitchen extraction system is [managed], it’s cleaned properly and regularly. It depends on the turnover and output of the outlet as well – an Indian- or Arabic-cuisine restaurant, for instance, would be a lot busier than a small cafeteria.”

Emilio García Perulles, CEO and board member of Eulen Middle East, echoes the view that duct cleaning schedules must be tailored to the environment of the systems. The company was formed after Eulen Group and Madaeen Al Doha Group teamed up in February 2017 to provide integrated FM and operational support services across the region.

In conversation with fmME, Perulles said: “The cleaning and maintenance of ventilation and air-conditioning ducts depend very much on the environment and the activity [of] these installations.

“When we plan duct cleaning schedules for projects in the Middle East, we have to not only consider the characteristics of the region like the sand or the hot environment, but also ensure we aren’t interfering with the use of the buildings.

“For example, cleaning in office buildings will be carried out during non-productive hours – at night or at the weekend – but not when they are in use by employees.”

Perulles believes that the frequency with which filter media is changed in regional tall towers must also be considered by duct cleaning specialists: “Incorrect maintenance of the filters causes accumulation of residue inside of them. However, according to the typology of buildings, the needs are very different.

“In hospitals, for example, we have to be careful and exhaustive because it is a very delicate sector that demands high cleaning ratios – and more frequently too,” Eulen Middle East’s CEO adds.

Looking ahead, Tetra Axis’s Gibbs says regulation must be tightened to monitor duct cleaning schedules in the UAE. In addition, regular inspection must also be implemented to ensure service provision is up to required safety and cleaning standards.

Meanwhile, Eulen Middle East’s Perulles says duct cleaning operators should seek to learn from the expertise of product and machinery manufacturers so as to improve overall duct cleaning programmes.

He continues: “Manufacturers of machinery are developing advanced technology and companies that provide duct cleaning services will advance with new methodology.

“Machinery has evolved a lot in the last few years, developing better systems of disinfection and cleaning of the ducts,” Perulles says, adding that present-day automated machines help boost overall service quality.

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