The UAE property development market is renowned for its pace and innovation, and the promise of Expo 2020 has only served to accelerate this trend. An estimated $8 billion worth of new infrastructure, an expected 25 million visitors, and 124,000 new retail units entering the market by the end of 2021 equate to a lot of development. And this, in turn leads to a lot of cooling.
In a region which faces some of the harshest weather conditions during the summer months, our reliance on air conditioning is somewhat inevitable. In fact, our own recent YouGov research found that 65% of UAE residents consider AC essential to quality of life, even more so than Wi-Fi, smart phones or cars.
So, with a high dependency on AC coupled with a surge in new properties entering the market, the need for more considered cooling has never been greater. As developers, manufactures and suppliers, we need to put energy conservation front and centre of our agenda and work together to find new ways of cooling our buildings that lessen the environmental impact. There are a number of ways we can approach this challenge, but a strong regulatory framework, more efficient technology, and education and awareness are all good starting points.
Sustainability and legislation
We know that HVAC systems can account for up to 75% of a building’s energy consumption during peak loads. Proportionally, that’s huge, so it’s good news that as a region we’ve already got sustainability right at the heart of our strategic focus including the UAE Vision 2021, the UAE Centennial 2071 and the UAE Energy Strategy 2050.
Sustainability legislation has been a driving force in overhauling the property development landscape. It has played an imperative role in driving developers to abide by greener, cleaner specifications, and to look at long-term energy impact over short-term gains. With this now factored into all aspects of development and design, we’re seeing more and more pull for energy solutions which promote efficiency. And, this demand further drives the innovation and NPD agenda across the industry, accelerating the pace of environmental evolution for cooling technology.
Sustainability and Technology
If we turn our attention to the AC industry, new technologies are constantly challenging the traditional methods of cooling buildings, offering more sustainable and intuitive cooling which not only keeps residents comfortable but also reduces overall impact on the environment.
HVAC efficiency is evolving with the use of technologies such as VFD, VRF and invertors. Key players in the market, such as Midea and Fujitsu General, invest heavily in research and development to manufacture products that are designed specifically (and not merely adapted) for desert conditions. If we want maximum cooling with minimum environmental impact, we need to use products that are specified and tested for our unique climate and are totally fit for purpose. That’s how we’ll realise the biggest savings and challenge over-use and over-cooling. The next generation of AC technology, like VRF targeted ‘cooling-only’ systems, promise to deliver supreme cooling and supreme efficiency for large scale projects.
Education and Awareness
However, awareness and perception of these newer technologies can be a barrier, and this is a key challenge for us as suppliers. We need to educate the opinion formers and specifiers on the benefits of emerging technologies. For example, VRF systems currently account for only 8% of the entire AC market by value, despite their well-evidenced benefits. VRF allows building owners to quantify savings, carbon footprint reduction and payback terms. It also facilitates lower cooling demand and ambient temperature at off peak conditions, which may constitute more than 90% of the system operation. Another example, our first residential towner block VRF project in Dubai resulted in audited savings of 66%; the scope for savings can be huge. And, while these kinds of figures are difficult for even the most reticent decision maker to ignore – VRF is still not always specified as the preferred technology.
However, through training and education drives, we’re slowly witnessing a sea of change here. With solid year-on-year increases in VRF sales now making it one of the fastest growing AC segments in the UAE, it is not surprising given the proven energy savings it offers.
More mindful use of AC is all of our business. In August, Taqeef launched AC Awareness Month, and our drive to promote less, more considered AC use led to some interesting responses. It’s important that all of us – as industry professionals and AC consumers – are thinking and talking more about how to cool our homes and businesses in a more considered way. After all, we can all play our part in protecting our planet one degree at a time.