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Developer’s out-of-this-world solution to greener cooling

UAE construction Fakhruddin Properties
The Maimoon Gardens development in the UAE: construction methods and technologiy developers are adopting are part of a trend towards more sustainable and inclusive homes
  • Cooling accounts for two-thirds of Gulf energy use
  • Fakhruddin Properties implements new tech
  • New systems can reduce energy use by 20%

Floating around in a space station is the ultimate in circular living. Everything from air to food to waste has to be reused or recycled, and all stored within the same tiny enclosed location. 

For air conditioning, Nasa made use of a novel system that was more effective in getting rid of flammable gases as well as bacteria, viruses and mould during space travel.

Back on earth, a Dubai developer is using a similar system at its new $190 million tower project.

Fakhruddin Properties says the system at its Maimoon Gardens project removes CO2 more efficiently and claims this reduces overall energy consumption by up to 20 percent. 

The tower is not set to be completed until 2025 but Fakhruddin Properties is also planning to install another innovation it claims will be even more energy efficient, although details are yet to be revealed.

“We have been doing a proof of concept for that particular technology – it’s completely new, no one in the world has done that before,” Yousuf Fakhruddin, CEO of Fakhruddin Properties, told AGBI

“It’s been developed by an Indian industrial engineer based in Masdar City.”

The product is being developed by a company in the Dubai Silicon Oasis free-trade zone.

Fakhruddin is in talks with numerous companies, including a leading UAE real estate developer and a multinational, about integrating this system into their buildings.

“A lot of companies are now looking to meet their sustainability goals,” he said.

Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (Adnoc) is one such business.

On Monday Adnoc and the National Central Cooling Company (Tabreed) announced a breakthrough in harnessing geothermal energy to cool buildings in Masdar City.

Following the conclusion of testing on two geothermal wells at Abu Dhabi’s sustainable urban community, hot water from the wells will pass through an absorption cooling system to produce chilled water. This will then be supplied to Tabreed’s district cooling network, accounting for 10 percent of its needs.

Energy demands 

Air conditioning is an essential part of life in the Gulf and accounts for more than two-thirds of residential energy consumption, but not everyone can afford to retrofit their homes with Nasa-style systems.

The sector as it stands is nonetheless a profitable one.

The UAE’s Empower is the world’s largest listed provider of district cooling – the process of piping chilled water to provide cooling.

It announced a record 7.2 percent annual increase in the volume of consumption of its services during the first half of 2023.

This helped it to achieve a net profit of AED403 million during the period, as revenue rose 6.1 percent year on year to AED1,225 million. The company reports that consumption rose 42 percent during the five-year period from 2018 to 2022. 

In Saudi Arabia, Shaker, one of the kingdom’s biggest importers, manufacturers, and distributors of air conditioners, announced first-half 2023 net profit was up 69 percent year on year to SAR44.66 million ($11.91 million). This was driven by revenue growth of 10.5 percent to SAR653.96 million. 

Air conditioningCreative Commons/Choo Yut Shing
Air conditioning accounts for more than two-thirds of residential energy consumption

Four out of the six GCC states have pledged to be net zero by either 2050 or 2060 and are investing billions towards greatly reducing carbon emissions.

So how can the energy-intensive cooling industry contribute to this, while managing to remain profitable?

Tuna Gulenc, vice-president for Middle East and Africa at Daikin, one of the largest heating, ventilation and air conditioning vendors in the world, argues it is possible to be both greener and profitable at the same time.

“I believe the Middle East is one of the best markets willing to pay a premium. And this is, I think, the recipe for profitability,” Gulenc says.

This is backed up data from Saudi Arabia’s General Authority for Statistics. Last month it reported that the share of Saudi households interested in rationalising their electricity consumption rose from 66.1 percent in 2021 to 91.9 percent in 2022.

It also found that 56.4 percent of households surveyed said they were willing to pay money to replace old appliances with modern, more energy-efficient alternatives.

Daikin is certainly reaping the rewards as it recorded a 130 percent increase in net sales across the Middle East during the first quarter of this year.

The company’s focus is on both retrofitting existing systems and optimising new builds for energy efficiency. 

The company has retrofitted more than 25,000 villas across the region over the past decade while more than five million existing units, aged between 12 and 15 years, are due for upgrades.

It claims its newest models cut CO2 emissions by 72 percent, while reducing energy consumption by up to 50 percent. 

Beyond individual businesses, Fakhruddin believes it will require a top-down approach from Gulf governments for people to wholeheartedly adapt these kinds of changes to their cooling and air conditioning provision. 

“There are a lack of financial incentives, but at the same time there’s a lack of education,” he says. 

“If the government starts setting some goals that buildings have to achieve, then a lot of things can work together.”

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