Swegon BDM Carl Tobisson talks about going green
To what extent does the green performance of a building influence the purchase decision?
The launch of Sheikh Mohammed’s green building initiative at the end of 2007 was the first step towards changing the criteria so that people pay more attention to energy-efficient and green building solutions. Such solutions are on their way to being at the forefront of people’s minds. There is a slow move away from building fast, cheap and then selling.
How should developers take an interest in the lifespan of a building?
There must be some kind of education. There are two types of investors, namely owners and speculators. Owners are going to pay the bills for energy, water and so on. The problem is with speculative buyers. When somebody else is paying the bills, it is not so easy. We must remember that, if you have a LEED-certified building, you can get more money out of it, which remains an advantage, even for speculative investors.
How have you encouraged clients to pay the premium for green building?
We are showing our customers that you have to look at the long-term costs. You have the investment cost, the running cost and the maintenance cost. The running and maintenance costs stay with the building its entire lifespan. What we are trying to indicate is that you have to look at the pointers – not only at investment, but the life-cycle cost.
Has the construction industry lost the will to go green in the face of the economic climate?
The recession could help in some ways. People will be more discerning. Before, everybody could build and sell. But now the market should be more stable, as opposed to people simply looking to build fast and sell. That’s why Sheikh Mohammed’s green proclamation was a big step. Someone has to take the lead, or practical steps will never be taken.
What health benefits are to be gained from using Swegon in hotels?
The first thing that comes to my mind would be the silent cooling. When most people stay in hotel rooms, they can hear the fan coil unit (FCU) operating. And also there is the draught element that can keep people awake. Those are two key areas that need to be addressed. The other one would be the risk of bacterial growth.
Our system operates above the dew point, whereas other systems operate below the dew point. This means you need to have a tray under the FCU, and you need to lead the water away. As it is a wet system and there is dust present in the room, you need to clean this unit carefully. Bacterial growth is one area where there is a definite higher risk.
What our system does is, first of all, with the Gold handling unit, it has filters that obviously filter and dehumidify the air. So the system supplies primary air that is filtered. This is not a problem if you require a normal supply of air. Also, you need to have the right amount of air exchanged.
In addition, you have emissions from carpets and walls, for example, and this is dealt with by the extract air and ventilation. We would never recommend switching a system off completely and not having exchange of air in the room.
How important is indoor air quality?
That is a good question. I think that, to a certain extent, say up until two years’ ago, the hotel industry has focused on the façade and external aesthetics, with cost-cutting on things inside that people cannot really see. But now in the UAE and the region as a whole, people are looking at reducing the total amount of energy consumed by their buildings. A total of 40% of energy is consumed by buildings. This is because people acknow-ledge that the well-being of people is of the utmost importance.
What challenges are you facing?
First of all, the economy needs to start picking up again. The biggest hurdle would be that lots and lots of consultants and property owners in this region like to use traditional systems. So in order to get your products into these new buildings, you have to be patient. You need to be able to show people the system already installed in existing buildings. Above all, you have to be persistent.
Can you retrofit your products?
We have not looked very much at that, but obviously this is an opportunity as well. The Paragon pro-duct is very new, and is part of our aim to target not only new developments, but existing ones as well. We are very much trying to meet the needs of the builders.
What is Paragon?
This is a new induction cooling unit for the hotel industry unveiled by Swegon at The Big 5 last year. The product has just been launched in the UAE market. Swegon has already secured a 300-room contract for an airport hotel in Oslo. Unlike a traditional FCU, Paragon has no need for filters or drainage, so there is no risk of bacterial growth.
Another advantage is that Paragon is available as a standard modular unit, with all the necessary actuators and valves premounted. This results in a significant overall saving in installation costs. The small size of the unit, which is only 180 mm high, means that the false ceiling space can be reduced dramatically as well.
Paragon has other unique features: air distribution is parallel with the ceiling, which means it can be placed at the rear of a room; adjustable supply air grilles direct the air vertically; an anti-draught function controls horizontal diffusion or air direction; and the enclosed unit means that the recirculated air never comes into contact with the space above the false ceiling, further enhancing indoor air quality.