Whose re­spon­si­bil­ity is it any­way when it comes to ducting and in­su­la­tion?

MEP Middle East - - INSIGHT -

The in­tent of en­ergy ef­fi­ciency codes, with re­spect to duct in­su­la­tion, is to keep me­chan­i­cally warmed or cooled air as close to a de­sired tem­per­a­ture as pos­si­ble and pre­vent the con­di­tioned air from es­cap­ing the duct sys­tem while it is be­ing moved to spa­ces where it is needed. If re­duced heat trans­fer through in­su­lated ducts is ac­counted for in the heat­ing, ven­ti­lat­ing, and air con­di­tion­ing (HVAC) load cal­cu­la­tions, it may even be pos­si­ble to re­duce the size of HVAC equip­ment.

Ac­cord­ing to US De­part­ment of En­ergy, one has to ver­ify that ducts have been sealed in ac­cor­dance with ap­proved de­sign doc­u­ments and code re­quire­ments. Ver­i­fy­ing all seams and con­nec­tions for the en­tire duct sys­tem in a com­mer­cial build­ing can be te­dious and time con­sum­ing. Typ­i­cally, in­spec­tors will per­form spot checks to con­firm the seams and con­nec­tions are be­ing sealed prop­erly. Test­ing the duct sys­tem for air tight­ness pro­vides the fi­nal con­fir­ma­tion of proper duct seal­ing.

How­ever, one of the more dif­fi­cult and con­fus­ing is­sues is de­ter­min­ing who is re­spon­si­ble for the main­te­nance and re­pair of duct­work and in­su­la­tion.

In an early roundtable in­ter­view with MEP Mid­dle East, Su­nil Nair, project con­trols – tech­ni­cal lead, BK Gulf, said: “I would think the big­gest prob­lem is that none of the peo­ple who are in­volved in the con­struc­tion phase are really re­spon­si­ble for the power [bills] later. The con­sul­tant ac­tu­ally de­signs; he’s is given some fig­ures of how his de­sign is op­ti­mised. When it comes to fi­nally hand­ing over, the bills are paid by the ten­ant. So the owner is not really both­ered be­cause some­body else is pay­ing [the bill]. No ten­ant is not go­ing to com­plain about pay­ing 10 dirhams more. There is no onus on any of the de­sign­ers to come back and say ‘I said that this build­ing is go­ing to cost so much’. No­body does that. It’s all on pa­per, all the fig­ures, per­cent­ages, etc. Un­less you put the onus on the peo­ple who are sell­ing or de­sign­ing, to ac­tu­ally show that sav­ings is achieved, it is point­less.”

Talk­ing about whether guide­lines are en­forced, Anil Mishra, man­ager tech­ni­cal spec­i­fi­ca­tions, MEA, KIMMCO, said: “In terms of leak­ages SMACNA, ASHRAE, etc., have world­wide stan­dards that spec­ify the type of seal­ing that you need to use for each duct to re­duce the amount of leak­ages. What are the kind of con­nec­tions that you have to do (her­ring­bone or c-clip), whether trans­verse joints have to be con­nected and sealed, or lon­gi­tu­di­nal joints or any other con­nec­tions where flanges should be con­nected to FCUs, AHUs or ter­mi­nal points. These are very big stan­dards and those stan­dards are based on static pres­sure. Leak­age is ba­si­cally a func­tion of static pres­sure. The more pres­sure you have in AHUs and the longer the duct is, the more are the chances of leak­age. That has to be mit­i­gated by im­ple­ment­ing the stan­dards. The onus first lies with the de­sign­ers, the HVAC de­sign­ers, to spec­ify the kind of pres­sures that we have in the sys­tem. Be it is in­su­la­tion, or sealants, there are rel­e­vant stan­dards. It just needs to be en­forced. As Su­nil very rightly be­lieves, from a con­trac­tor’s point of view, there has to be a bal­ance be­tween de­sign and cost. If the con­trac­tor is im­ple­ment­ing what is spec­i­fied, and if the con­sul­tant is check­ing what im­ple­mented is as per the stan­dard, I don’t see any rea­son why there should be a prob­lem.”

Although there are reg­u­la­tions and stan­dards with re­gards to in­stal­la­tion, there is no reg­u­la­tion or onus on the con­sul­tants or the own­ers to ac­tu­ally prove that the right prac­tice is hap­pen­ing. Nair said: “There should be a drive for ev­ery­body to save en­ergy, and then some in­cen­tivi­sa­tion, and fi­nally, mak­ing some­one re­spon­si­ble.”

The Dubai green build­ing reg­u­la­tion is con­vert­ing to Al Sa’fat (a green build­ing rat­ing sys­tem). Al Sa’fat is try­ing to have a sys­tem of reg­u­lar au­di­tors of build­ings. The pur­pose of the Al Sa’fat reg­u­la­tions is to im­prove the per­for­mance of build­ings in Dubai by re­duc­ing the con­sump­tion of en­ergy, wa­ter and ma­te­ri­als, im­prov­ing pub­lic health, safety and gen­eral wel­fare and by en­hanc­ing the plan­ning, de­sign, con­struc­tion and op­er­a­tion of build­ings to cre­ate an ex­cel­lent city that pro­vides the essence of suc­cess and sus­tain­able liv­ing.

Arvind Bhat­na­gar, gen­eral man­ager, Tech­ni­cal & Trad­ing LLC – a mem­ber of Easa Saleh Al Gurg Group, raises some per­ti­nent ques­tions. He asks: “In a coun­try like the UAE, where the cli­mate dic­tates that we spend 90% of our lives in air-con­di­tioned air, why don’t we ask our land­lord about the last time the AC ducts were cleaned? Bet­ter yet, de­mand proof of the same each year when we re­new our ten­ancy con­tract.

“If we own our prop­erty, do we ask our fa­cil­ity man­age­ment com­pany to clean the ducts ever y six months? Many of us don’t and this ig­no­rance has a sig­nif­i­cant im­pact. We never make the con­nec­tion be­tween nurs­ing a heavy head or oc­ca­sion­ally be­ing list­less at work as a symp­tom of sick build­ing syn­drome. We spend about 40% of our life time at our place of work and an­other 40% within our homes, yet very few peo­ple ever touch on this im­por­tant as­pect of reg­u­lar build­ing main­te­nance and the link to our health.”

If we own our prop­erty, do we ask our fa­cil­ity man­age­ment com­pany to clean the ducts ev­ery six months?″

Arvind Bhat­na­gar, gen­eral man­ager, Tech­ni­cal & Trad­ing

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