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Fri 3 Jul 2009 04:00 AM

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You’ve got the power!

There's a new green building code on the table says Dubai Municipality. Alice Tapfield, Bridge Media, looks at what it means for FMs and their owners associations, and gives you top energy saving tips along the way...

You’ve got the power!
FA: ‘Approximately 45 to 50 percent of a building’s budget is swallowed by utlities. Facilities managers must focus on increasing efficiencies’.
You’ve got the power!
The economic correction and the drive for sustainable living in the UAE mean end-users are looking at ways of saving energy and reducing bills.

There's a new green building code on the table says Dubai Municipality. Alice Tapfield, Bridge Media, looks at what it means for FMs and their owners associations, and gives you top energy saving tips along the way...

Yes, Dubai Municipality is serious about green building legislation. As part of its Strategic Plan 2015, and following a review of over 250 international rating systems, including US-based LEED, UK BREEAM and Augstralian Green Star, Dubai Municipality (DM) will shortly be issuing a new green code. This will cover all aspects of building design, construction and operation, and they will be mandatory.

Kamal Azayem, Mechanical Engineering Expert at Dubai Municipality, is the co-ordinator of the green building committee, and says of the impending legislation: "The green building regulations we are developing will be instrumental in helping to save energy and water throughout the emirate. The collaboration between Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA) and DM will result in the world's first comprehensive system of green building regulations."

Owners associations and FM toolkits

The legislation, which will be implemented in four tiers and apply to both new and existing buildings, will undoubtedly accelerate adherence to efficiencies. Add to this strata law ratification and the impending empowerment of home owners associations in appointing facilities managers means now, more than ever, that energy and cost saving measurables are key to the FM toolkit.

Fergus Appleton, GM, Towers and New Business, Concordia Community Management says one of the most important FM roles is to improve building energy efficiency and pass those cost savings on to the end-user. "Approximately 45 to 55 percent of a building's budget is swallowed by utilities.

"Facilities managers must focus on increasing efficiencies, live and breath energy management on behalf of their clients and pay attention to the detail behind the strategies they adopt and the systems they put in place."

Knowledge is power

A certain lack of awareness still exists in the emirates about why and how to conserve energy resources. This has been recognised by DM, which has begun a co-ordinated effort to educate the public in this matter - with DEWA running a series of initiatives aimed at demonstrating how energy efficiencies helps to protect the environment, as well as leading to substantial cost savings.

The statistics reveal the programmes are already making an impact in residential facilities. According to DEWA, electricity consumption decreased by six per cent and water use dropped by 37 per cent among those who participated in the DEWA ‘Your Decision' campaign, 2008.

Amal Koshak, senior manager, Demand and Tariff Management, DEWA, explains the philosophy behind the programmes. "Our society is an amalgamation of all our diverse needs and desires. Creating sustainable communities is not really an ‘environmental' movement, rather a ‘peoples'' movement as a community. It is a concept that underscores our role in the ecosystem.

"These are some of the messages we aim to disseminate in our endeavour to raise awareness on green inititaives ensuring a sustainable tomorrow for our future generations."

Air conditioning

Heating and cooling are the biggest culprits of energy wastage. To reduce consumption, room temperature should be kept only as cool as necessary by setting the thermostat to an appropriate level (around 22 degrees), and separate switches should be installed in each room. Heat generating devices should be kept away from the thermostat and doors and windows must remain shut (and windows shaded) for air conditioning to work effectively. Fans can lower the air temperature by around five percent and consume far less electricity, so use these instead, or as well, whenever possible.

Regular cleaning of the system is essential for optimum performance, and it is important to turn off air conditioning whenever rooms are vacant for long periods. Although perhaps too obvious to highlight, wearing appropriate clothing indoors also reduces the need for excessive cooling.

Water, Water everywhere...

In the UAE alone desalination capacity will have to double to over 5,000 million gallons a day to meet projected demand by 2015. As this is an extremely energy intensive and costly process, so cutting down on water usage directly helps to save energy. "We have achieved some fantastic results from implementing practical energy mangement strategies - we reduced chilled water consumption by over 40 percent on one contract - at little extra cost," explains Concordia's Appleton.

Dubai Electricity and Water Authority advises fitting inexpensive water flow devices to taps, shower heads and cisterns, which restrict the volume without affecting pressure, and can save consumers between 50 - 70 percent of water. Other ways to cut back include taking showers rather than baths, only running washing machines and dishwashers when full, and always using grey water for irrigation.


Maximise use of natural daylight and paint walls in light colours. Reduce background light and rely more on task lighting, focusing light only where it is needed. Replacing traditional incandescent lamps with compact fluorescent lights and low-energy light bulbs will shave significant amounts off electricity bills. Have separate switches for all lights and use dimmers to conserve power. Install light sensors outdoors, or in less-frequented communal building areas to ensure lights are not left on.

Procurement and owners associations

It is essential to purchase the most energy-efficient brands of power-hungry electrical items such as fridges, ovens, dishwashers and washing machines, so look for models that carry a certified energy efficiency rating such as the internationally-recognised EnergyStar. Though the initial cost of such appliances may be higher, this should quickly be recouped through resulting lower energy bills - something you can highlight to your owners association as proof that your energy management strategy is working for them.

It is also important to know how to maximise the efficiency of products and prolong their shelf-life through using appropriate settings and adhering to maintenance schedules. James Day, GM, FM World.

Facilities Management Services [which includes the Smashing Cleaning Services division], advises simple cleaning for improving output: "Research shows that regular, professional cleaning of HVAC refrigeration coils is extremely effective, leading to energy and cost savings of up to 40 percent," he says.

Paying for what you use...

One other possible reason for the continuing disinclination to save energy is that prudent usage is not being fostered through current methods of end-user billing. Currently, the method of billing lies with developers as to how tenants are billed for electricity and water consumption. Consequently, many landlords have traditionally chosen to include utility payments within annual rent or service charges.

"We are billed AED11 per square foot," points out Juergen Schmidhofer, a resident in Discovery Gardens, Dubai. "This is extremely wasteful, metering is obviously cheaper and more efficient." Schmidhofer adds that for some owners associations price is not necessarily the deciding factor when awarding FM contracts, energy management systems must also be evidenced.

"To remain competitive, FM providers must prove to residents they have the requisite knowledge and skills to to implement an efficient energy management policy."

Back to the future

One of the most important FM roles is to be innovative says Concordia's Appleton, citing the fact that many buildings in the Gulf do not have centralised energy management systems in place.

"Yes, we have to adopt an innovative approach and utilise the tools we have. Retro-fitting is always an option, however, in the current market cost is an issue to some." And therein lies the challenge: to communicate to residents the cost and energy savings FMs are responsible for delivering.

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