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Gulf Construction op-ed

Gulf Construction op-ed

Tariq Al Ghussein, CEO, Taqeef


ESMAs new standards for Energy Efficiency Labelling for household and commercial Air Conditioners was released in early March, with a tentative implementation date of July 2020.  These regulations are good news for responsible suppliers and manufactures throughout the region and will raise the bar by increasing the energy performance requirements for RAC and CAC systems.


While the more stringent values required will certainly result in some re-categorisation in the split unit sector, it’s good news for the most innovative in the market whose product pipeline always exceeds the regulatory demands.  General and Midea’s residential ACs for example will – due to new technological advancements – continue to fall into the 4- and 5-star space even with the new protocols.  However, the increasing pressure for efficiency levels will certainly be a struggle for those brands without the weight of technology and innovation behind them.


However, it’s in the CAC sector, where I believe, we’ll see the most significant impact from the regulatory changes, and in particular in relation to VRF.  Why?

Legislation relating to building energy performance, HVAC system components and specifying HVAC efficiency in buildings is forcing us towards newer ways of thinking and manging our cooling footprint.

Here’s what we know:

  • Over 50% of commercial building annual energy consumption goes to HVAC.
  • 99% of the time, commercial buildings operate at less than 80% of full load.
  • These more stringent regulations on building energy performance, and HVAC system efficiency will force building owners to take measures to reduce their consumption.
  • And, improving partial load efficiency in existing buildings presents them with significant and now measurable opportunities for savings.


ESMAs new standards – using CSPF – will for the first time specify part load efficiencies and provide parameters that are tailored to our climate.  The introduction of CSPF (Cooling Seasonal Performance Factor) by ISO 16538 is a big innovation as it will measure performance taking into account that full and partial load can be achieved at any temperature and analysing local weather bin data.

This means that the true benefits of VRF will now be more measurable.  This could be the tipping point for this technology in the region.

We know retrofits will play a key role in reaching government targets for green buildings.  Research from the Emirates Green Building Counsel indicates the measurable energy savings from retrofitted buildings are significant across sectors with best performers offering savings of 58% (hotels), 61% (schools) and 35% (malls).  And our own case study data supports that – demonstrating the significant savings of retrofitting using VRF.

Increasingly we’re seeing more debate about building energy consumption and the HVAC contribution.  This, alongside these new regulations will no-doubt accelerate the retrofit market.

However, an increase in auditing, awareness and education campaigns is essential.  While the potential for savings and operational efficiencies through VRF retrofits is clear, there is still a reluctance to try this ‘new’ technology.   Schools, malls and leisure venues are obvious targets and the audit research that exists in the region makes a very compelling case for upgrading traditional commercial cooling systems with more progressive and adaptable technology like VRF.


VRF Case Study

The Palace in Deira is a 20-year-old residential tower with 42 apartments.  The developers Bu Haleeba were looking for a HVAC partner to refurbish the AC system as the existing air cooled chillers were outdated and inefficient.


As the residents would remain in occupancy during the renovation, the developers needed a solution that would improve HVAC performance and efficiency with minimum disruption. They also wanted an individually metered system installed so that DEWA bills would go direct to the residents, instead of being centrally administered by the Landlord.


Taqeef retrofitted the building, replacing three air cooled chillers and plant with a VRF system.  To minimise costs and disruption, the upgrade was completed while the old chiller system was still operational.

The installation of multiple indoor FCUs for each apartment – instead of the single indoor units used for the chiller system – provided more control flexibility, better efficiency and reduced the administrative burden on the landlord.

ESMA accredited independent auditors concluded The Palace retrofit delivered a 66% reduction in energy consumption within the first year of installation, and savings of almost 400,000 DHS. The annual chiller consumption of 595,065 AED fell to 202,657 AED under the VRF system.