Date: 2020-10-01 15:20:00

AMCA Middle East Update

Note: This article appears in the 2020 edition of AMCA inmotion magazine.


As buildings in the Middle East that were closed because of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic reopen, we are seeing intensifying focus on indoor-air quality—specifically, an increase in projects involving the upgrade of filtration, the addition of ultraviolet fixtures, and the use of portable filters, all measures to reduce the possibility of airborne transmission.

The World Health Organization (WHO) does not consider airborne transmission a primary means of SARS-CoV-2—the virus that causes COVID-19—spread. Following publication of an open letter signed by 239 experts from around the world arguing the virus lingers in the air, however, the WHO is reconsidering and investigating airborne transmission. In the near future, I expect there will be guidelines and recommendations from government entities addressing the airborne transmission of SARS-CoV-2 in buildings. This will depend greatly on whether the WHO changes its stance on the matter.

We have, unfortunately, seen some energy-efficiency projects put on hold because of building closures. As buildings reopen, I believe we will see a comeback of such projects.

I also believe there will be a focus on the residential sector, which has seen an increase in consumption and a decrease in rents, which is the best formula for energy-efficiency projects.

The governments around the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) still are pushing their energy-efficiency and demand-side-management (DSM) agendas. With the launch of the Abu Dhabi Energy Services Co. and the perseverance of the Dubai and Saudi Super ESCOs, I believe the retrofit sector will continue growing. The renewable-energy sector also will see growth as we approach 2030, which is a major milestone for DSM for many cities around the GCC.

A pillar of many of the DSM strategies of GCC cities, building codes are being revised to increase the efficiency of new construction. The need for net-zero-energy buildings is increasing, with construction of the first net-zero government building in Dubai under way. With a gross floor area of 105,000 sq m, Dubai Electricity and Water Authority’s (DEWA’s) new headquarters, Al-Shera’a, will be the largest net-zero-energy building in the world.

Whether a project falls under the new-construction or the retrofit category, occupant well-being, building resilience, and energy efficiency will be looked at almost equally, with occupant well-being perhaps getting a bit more attention. As a result, there will be more focus on building-operation-related regulations, training of operations-and-maintenance personnel, certification, and applying minimum-qualifications requirements when selecting a facility-management company.

Hassan Younes, HBDP, BEAP, OPMP, HFDP, BEMP, CPMP, BCxP, CHD, CEM, CMVP, LEED AP, PQP, is co-founder and director of GRFN and president of ASHRAE Falcon Chapter.