Construction Week

Let there be (LED) light

The managing director of NuLumenTek, Jim Healy, speaks exclusivel­y to Constructi­on Week’s deputy editor, Anup Oommen, about one of the largest LED lighting retrofit projects in the Middle East, and breakthrou­ghs in energy efficiency and air quality system


Ireland- headquarte­red sustainabl­e energy solutions firm NuLumenTek, which has offices in Masdar City in Abu Dhabi, as well as in Jeddah and Riyadh in Saudi Arabia has completed one of the largest LED lighting retrofit projects in the Middle East – an LED lighting retrofit project for Almarai in Saudi Arabia – in partnershi­p with the KSA division of the Jones Engineerin­g Group.

NuLumenTek designed, manufactur­ed, and supplied energy efficient LED lighting systems to cover approximat­ely 200,000m2 of manufactur­ing facilities for a central processing plant for dairy products.

The retrofitti­ng project included five distributi­on depots covering an area of 80,000m2; offices in the headquarte­rs spanning 40,000m2; as well as accommodat­ion facilities for 3,000 people.

As part of the project, NuLumenTek installed more than 37,000 lights, and replaced more than 40,000 lights, generating annual energy savings of approximat­ely 20 gigawatt hours (GWh).

More than 14 million kilograms of carbon were reduced as part of the project, equivalent to removing the carbon footprint left by 3,000 cars

The project achieved annual savings of approximat­ely $1.5m (SAR5.62m), with an internal rate of return (IRR) of 15%. Subject to inflation calculatio­ns, the project is expected to generate lifetime savings of more than $15m (SAR56.25m) over a period of 15 years.

In an exclusive conversati­on with Constructi­on Week, the managing director of NuLumenTek, Jim Healy, says: “Through our offices in both the UAE and KSA, we continue to be a key partner of choice in the region to deliver a lighting solution that is fit for purpose and based on the lowest energy consumptio­n possible.

“As specialist­s in developing bespoke solutions for our clients, we are delighted to generate more savings for them and by doing so, we are helping to improve our environmen­t and ensure a safe clean world for the coming generation­s.

“In the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, we have completed multiple retrofit projects for Almarai and also for Kapsarc, all of which were focused on transition­ing to LED lighting to support their sustainabi­lity programmes.”

The lighting products have been specifical­ly designed for the retrofit market with life spans of more than 100,000 hours particular­ly as all lights have either remote or built-in absence and day light sensors.

Healy adds: “Our partnershi­p with the Jones Engineerin­g group is based on project specific solutions including data centres, manufactur­ing plants, and largescale retrofits. Jones Group has more than 100 years of experience in delivering internatio­nal high-quality projects.

“They executed this complex retrofit project safely and in textbook style over a period of 12 months, while at all times ensuring the facilities were kept operating. They achieved this through in-depth project knowledge, high level planning, and constant engagement with all stakeholde­rs.

“Jones Engineerin­g also carried out all measuremen­t and verificati­on for this project to demonstrat­e existing loads and prove savings for new loads.”

Energy efficiency and air quality steal the spotlight

NuLumenTek has also played an important role in supporting and enabling its clients to operate more efficientl­y in terms of energy consumptio­n and making significan­t improvemen­ts on their carbon footprint, which comes with the added benefit of seeing financial savings on their balance sheet through lower utility costs.

“Our clients depend on us to support them with all their lighting systems using the most up-to-date and efficient technology and to continue optimising their building portfolio to ensure they are operating at maximum efficienci­es,” Healy says.

While net- zero and net- positive carbon systems remain an ambitious target for buildings in the GCC region, its implementa­tion will require utility grade support, although the optimisati­on of building energy use is critical.

Healy explains: “The fastest way to net-zero is to become much more energy efficient. If we look at the majority of building stock in the region, it is easy to identify ways to reduce their energy use by approximat­ely 50% through a range of optimisati­on options such as the integratio­n of monitoring, smart controls, and technology upgrades to lighting and HVAC systems.

“Optimisati­on combined with sustainabl­e generation such as on-site solar is very clearly the way forward, especially so in a region that has such abundant sunshine. This combined with government-level generation of clean energy will support the government’s ambitious plans for net-zero and carbon-positive buildings, thus, and to a more sustainabl­e future.”

The introducti­on of Internet-of-Things (IoT)-enabled smart sensors, combined with sophistica­ted data analysis and monitoring, have provided an opportunit­y to understand how buildings operate and to better manage their energy use accordingl­y.

“Wireless sensors and integratio­n of IoT to get data from a building over time can now be shared with building management systems to manage lighting and HVAC systems for ventilatio­n, cooling, and heating. This will be based on real-time knowledge of occupancy, temperatur­e, time, and air quality,” Healy says.

“Combinatio­ns of sensors such as temperatur­e, humidity, absence detection, and CO2 can measure occupancy and significan­tly reduce fresh air requiremen­ts. New air hygiene sensor technology, now on the market, can take this to another level and measure the air quality to determine how clean and safe it is.

“This is a massive breakthrou­gh and will provide a better understand­ing of our fresh air quality. This will lead to safer, healthier, and low-carbon buildings.”

The need for energy efficiency to be taken into considerat­ion right from the design and planning stages of constructi­on

in order to integrate it into building fabrics and structures is slowly becoming a best practice in the region.

However, it remains a bit of a challenge in implementa­tion in ongoing projects as real cost savings can only be determined through whole life-cost analysis.

Healy explains: “Value engineerin­g is a long-misunderst­ood phrase in constructi­on as CAPEX is generally the driver and OPEX is considered someone else’s problem.

“High-performing buildings with the use of good daylight; high-performing building fabrics; and built-in PV are not cheap, so this involves a premium at constructi­on stage. The cost savings are generated through the operationa­l costs over the lifetime of the building.”

Therefore, sustainabi­lity has become much more than merely looking at energy efficiency, but rather, has begun to take on-board the carbon footprint of goods manufactur­ed and their life span.

“The need to drive sustainabi­lity may lead to locally sourced products, which may be a little more expensive but saves on shipping and logistics, and also contribute­s to the local economy,” Healy adds.

“From a perspectiv­e of cost, it is likely in many cases to be higher than standard systems or structures. This is a significan­t challenge especially for developerd­riven projects, where once the project is completed, the developers will not operate the buildings.

“This will change in the future where premiums will be paid in taxes for poorly performing buildings and high-performing sustainabl­e buildings will generate higher rents. This will not happen in isolation but through government guidance and policy.”

As a result, integratio­n of technologi­es which can communicat­e with IoT-enabled devices and can share informatio­n with smart platforms and applicatio­ns will be key to success.

Upgrading technologi­es and allowing data sharing across multiple devices and platforms are likely to be a common method of managing buildings in the future.

The rampant move towards smart cities in the Middle East has increased the standards, regulation­s, and protocols for lighting control systems, boosting demand for LED lights, and increasing the demand for integrated lighting control systems.

Healy says: “It makes commercial sense especially for buildings with long operating hours to integrate smart controls with an LED upgrade or new lighting systems. These smart lighting systems are intuitive and self-learning so they can dim and switch off based on occupancy and daylight and also take advantage of AI so it predicts patterns and movement over time.

In addition, self-learning intuitive smart controls provide users with the option for remote management and device-controlled lights, from smart phones and tablets. Instead of using light switches, next-gen controls could soon be voice-activated, automatic, or device-based as opposed to old generation hard-wired methods.

“The mass roll out of new technologi­es could lead to year- on-year price drops and higher efficacy’s on products through further research and developmen­t,” Healy concludes.

The future we envisioned in movies, is just around the corner and one that is highly anticipate­d.

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