Retrofitting: Why we must fight the ‘green painters’

Grundfos Gulf Distribution’s Tolga Candan says that new initiatives can help FMs and organisations better understand energy efficiency

Despite the Middle East becoming ever more aware of energy saving, many organisations are still reluctant to retrofit and make changes to existing buildings to decrease their carbon footprint.

The Dubai Supreme Council of Energy has initiated a vision to retrofit 30,000 buildings by 2030, as part of the goal to reduce energy demand by 30%. This is a move in the right direction, as existing buildings consume more energy than new buildings. In developed countries, residential and commercial buildings account for 20-40% of energy consumption, bypassing industrial and transport sectors, while in the UAE, building emissions account for 60-70% of electricity consumption.

Hence it is becoming essential to retrofit buildings, to not only make them sustainable for the future but also economical in nature.

Tolga Candan, business development manager, Energy Optimisation and Retrofit at Grundfos, says: “The retrofit market is fast maturing in the UAE, which is also setting up a role model and benchmark for the neighbouring regions. People are not yet developing confidence towards the retrofit market, because in today’s business environment many products and solutions are ‘green painted’. This situation makes it difficult for the end users to distinguish the genuine solutions that they can rely on. Thanks to the growing number of success stories, the retrofit market is gaining confidence, hence we are experiencing an exponential growth.”

Various governmental initiatives, like ESCO companies, the UAE Green Initiative and Estimada, have been set up by the government to understand the demands of the retrofit market. Etihad ESCO has a project to successfully retrofit 243 buildings for wasl Properties in different parts of Dubai. The $18.8 million project will increase the energy efficiency of the buildings by achieving annual savings of over $4m by upgrading air conditioning and lighting systems.

Candan adds: “The UAE government established the Etihad ESCO to govern and regulate the market so that more private ESCOs can be established, resulting in increased market confidence and engagement. The main objective of Etihad ESCO is to enable private ESCOs to execute the retrofit projects.”

Advanced HVAC technologies, photovoltaic energy panels, smart meters, efficient BMS, energy-saving lighting and replacing or tweaking old pumps are just some of the ways energy efficiency can be achieved. However, the current BMS system tries to control the equipment and manufacturers take control of the product based on the information received from the sensor. To create an intelligent BMS, it should be able to look at the efficiency of the product rather than just sensing the basic functions.

Candan says, “In this way, BMS can be the brain looking at the overall building. But the challenge to efficiency starts with benchmarking. If there is a standard against which energy consumption can be measured, then the retrofit market will mature up exponentially.”

The second issue seems to be subsidised electricity tariffs which don’t reflect the actual savings potential. Candan proposes: “Governmental bodies and regulatory authorities should develop and incentivise retrofit projects not based on the electricity tariff they are charging, but on the actual cost of the electricity.”

Meanwhile, operational costs are borne by tenants while the equipment belongs to the building owner. In this case, building owners are negligent towards how much tenants are charged for electricity.

“But with a building rating system, owners will be more motivated to go with retrofit changing equipment,” presumes Candan.

Costing and return on investment (ROI) are other challenges cited by building owners and facilities managers. Awareness of how simple solutions can bring about massive savings will help them get a clearer picture. Here is where events like Dubai Retrofit, the Developers Awareness Programme and the Grundfos Retrofit events help attendees to understand retrofitting to achieve energy efficiency and the benefits of energy audits.

Another alternative solution is partnering with ESCO companies, as Grundfos has with Taka Solutions. The partnership is helping finance retrofit projects in a variety of ways, from full turnkey solutions like sourcing and installation of products to offering energy consultancy.

“Also, customers are now aware about Capex [capital expenditure] versus Opex [operational expenditure]. They are looking at the lifecycle cost of owning an asset, including the initial costs and maintenance costs for the next 10 to 15 years, and it is the number one criterion in the retrofit market,” clarifies Candan.

Ronak Monga, product manager, HVAC at Grundfos, concludes: “Our solution is very simple, we want to save energy for the end user – it doesn’t have to be through pumps, changing a type of valve or putting a sensor are some of the things we have recommended to companies – so our objective is not on pumps, our objective is to optimise the system.”


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