In January 2012, Dubai Municipality implemented a set of green building regulations, which include specific guidelines and recommendations for the commissioning, installation, operation and maintenance of HVAC equipment. We reviewed the code and its implications for the industry, asking manufacturers how they plan to align themselves to the objectives behind the regulations … By Valeria Camerino.
Without a doubt, the much-awaited green building code represents a positive development for the whole industry, positioning Dubai at the forefront of the global efforts towards a sustainable and energy-efficient economy.
It is a step in the right direction, that for some, was long-overdue.
However, now that the new regulations are in place, one can’t help but wonder what challenges lie ahead. What will be the practical implications for the HVAC sector? How will Dubai Municipality ensure that the code is fully implemented?
“Whilst the effects of the code will ultimately be far-reaching, I anticipate that the greatest impact may be, or at least should be, around the aspect of indoor air quality. In particular, the provision of appropriate filtered and conditioned air for a building’s occupants.” Peter Blanchflower, Regional Marketing Leader, Trane EMEIA, observed.
He added: “Currently the standards in many facilities leave a lot to desire, which has a negative impact on comfort, health, soft furnishings and, in some extreme cases, the very structure of the building. Good indoor air quality can actually improve health, productivity and even real estate values.”
In his view, in the long term, the regulations should drive higher standards across a wide range of design, construction and operating criteria, especially energy efficiency, water conservation, respect for the natural environment and the people who occupy the buildings.
Indeed, he believes that the code will encourage the introduction of more sophisticated designs and better facilities management. “Significant opportunities exist for existing facilities to improve their environmental credentials and save money, such as adiabatic cooling retro-fit to existing chillers, energy audits, etc.,” Blanchflower said.
However, he also admitted that manufacturers sometimes face some resistance from building owners when trying to sell the most environmentally friendly solutions. “Owners tend to be driven primarily by the economic/commercial model (ROI) and are not easily persuaded to pay more for something that has environmental benefits,” he pointed out. “Of course, on some occasions, the right environmental choice is also the lowest price. In this case it is win-win.”
As far as new construction is concerned, building specifications often stress only effectiveness, fit for purpose or size requirements rather than environmental responsibility such as energy efficiency.
This is why, he argued, regulations and guidelines have a valuable role to play in helping the market move more rapidly towards a more environmentally responsible built environment.
However, in Blanchflower’s view, it is very important for countries to adopt standards that cover large areas such as the Gulf or the Middle East, as “smaller markets than this can prove problematic for global players to serve.”
As he explained, the risk for Dubai or indeed, any other small entity tailoring its own standards, is that this leads to a fragmentation or patch-work of standards across the world, thus making it increasingly difficult and expensive for global manufacturers to serve each of these markets.
“If the individual standards become too difficult to align with, the big players may be forced to focus their greatest innovation towards the large markets where standards are harmonised,” he said. “This could leave smaller markets to be served only by local players who may not have the best research and development facilities or technologies. [And ultimately], it could lead to more expensive pricing for consumers.”
Blanchflower believes that, to ensure that contractors, developers and building owners comply with the code, continued dialogue with all the stake holders is needed, along with improved certification of designs and inspection throughout the life of the project.
He claimed that Trane has been at the forefront of energy-efficient and environmentally responsible HVAC products and services for many years.
“We are also working with ESMA & Estidama towards compliance, which is a stepping stone to help buildings be more efficient and less environmentally damaging,” he said.