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Sat 11 Nov 2006 04:00 AM

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Quality control

Visitors to this year’s Big 5 Exhibition need only take a quick glance at the programme to notice the increasing air conditioning sector in the region. As the demand for good indoor air quality grows, MEP Middle East finds out what the issues are and how manufacturers are responding.

|~|6p31main.gif|~|Air conditioning systems form only one part in the battle to maintain good indoor air quality in buildings.|~|Everyone accepts that air conditioning is a must in the Middle East. Regardless of the use of premises, the high temperatures and humidity levels in the region must be tackled if a good indoor air quality is to be supplied.

But unless systems are properly installed and used, they can actually aggravate the issue. Just take a look around some of the more basic accommodation in the region and black patches of mould are a familiar sight.

Recognising the problems, the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) has launched proposals for a new moisture control standard and improvements to the existing ASHRAE Standard 62.

“ASHRAE is focussing a lot of concentration on indoor air quality at the moment, especially with the standards coming up in indoor air quality and mould growth,” states Bassel Anbari, president of ASHRAE’s Emirates Falcon Chapter.

“We are holding a lot of technical seminars to create awareness of the need for good indoor air quality and the problem of sick building syndrome.”

ASHRAE standards are widely followed in the region by consultants, the municipality, DEWA and government, with Standard 62: 2001, Ventilation for acceptable indoor air quality, being the backbone for the design of many systems.

The proposed Standard 160P, Design criteria for moisture control in buildings aims to formulate existing design assumptions for moisture design analysis and criteria for acceptable performance. It is open for public consultation until 6 November 2006.

“Standard 160P gives us a methodology for the first time to make consistent design recommendations such as the need, type and placement of vapour retarders in any climate,” commented Anton TenWolde, chair of the standards committee.

“The standard requires the designer to think about the interior conditions that will be maintained in the building and the effect that may have on the building envelope,” he added.

In introducing Standard 160, ASHRAE is drawing attention to the fact that the design and construction of buildings play a vital role in the effectiveness of the systems installed.

“[Mould and indoor air quality] are a serious problem here due to the fact that some systems were not designed properly in terms of outdoor air requirements, and the air tightness and positive:negative relationship of the buildings are not good,” states Anbari.

“These are the basic factors that equate to mould in buildings and that translates to bad indoor air quality,” he adds. “If consultants design a tight building with a slightly positive pressure there will not be any ingress of air into the building and this will minimise the humidity problem that contributes to mould.”

Richard Smith, technical director of Atkins Middle East notes that contractors must play their part in making improvements as the construction process plays a big factor. “The big issue for us and the industry is not the systems we put in buildings, it’s how well we can make the envelope airtight. That’s the root of most of the problems,” Smith states.

“We have tremendous industry standards for tight buildings, but achieving it in the field is not easy. Buildings breathe in at the top and out at the bottom, so at the top of the building, when [construction is] racing behind schedule, that’s where you could get the mould. For us its procedures to tighten up on cladding control [that are needed],” he adds.

Manufacturers though are playing their part and several recent product launches have included features to specifically tackle mould and air quality.

The Xpression Health Plus series of air conditioners from UTS Carrier feature ioniser technology and a photo-catalyst filter. The in-built ionizer technology defuses negative ions, which magnetically attract pollutants such as dust, smog, smoke and allergens.

The firm’s UAE business unit manager Imad Richani comments: “Homeowners frequently complain about indoor air quality, excessive fine dust particles, bad odours, smoke and domestic smells. According to research in Japan, the ioniser technology in the advanced air cleansing system and the photo-catalytic filter help reduce allergens at home.”

The firm has also recently launched G3, its third generation series of window air conditioners in the UAE. “The four-in-one filter system eliminates bacteria, dust mites and potentially harmful pollutants and chemicals,” Richani adds.

Daikin also has upgraded its product range to achieve better air quality. The firm has incorporated several types of filters into its indoor units.

The air purifying filter traps mildew, mites and tobacco smoke plus dust and pollen as fine as 0.01µm. A second version of this filter includes a photo-catalytic deodorising function that removes both bacteria and viruses, making it suited to use in settings such as hospitals. And its mould-proof air filter is virtually immune to mould, claims the firm.

In addition to these air-cleaning solutions, Daikin has launched a state-of-the-art stand-alone photo-catalytic air purifier that removes 28 types of allergens, 19 types of exhaust particles, odours, bacteria and viruses.

This air purifier has an eight-stage cleaning process that leaves the room air hygienic and odourless; thus is especially safe for those with respiratory conditions.

Others to have introduced bacteria-busting products include Panasonic, which launched its Supersonic Air Purifying System this summer. With this product allergens are caught through the system’s filter and deactivated.

And at Big 5, Bry-Air (Asia) is launching its new fresh air treatment unit that uses a desiccant rotor with hot water regeneration to dehumidify and cool air.

Products are available, but for air quality to improve the industry must work together to give a complete solution. ||**||

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