A UAE-based cooling expert has warned against implementing 'shallow retrofits'.
Tariq Al Ghussein, chief executive officer of air-conditioning (AC) specialist firm, Taqeef, said regional energy-oriented legislation encourages high-performing retrofit programmes, but developers and building owners can do more to achieve greater sustainability standards.
AC retrofits can lead to significant cost reductions and energy savings, Al Ghussein pointed out, adding that between 60% and 70% of energy bills in the UAE alone can be attributed to cooling systems.
Building age and design can greatly determine the features of a new cooling system that is energy- and cost-efficient, but regional developers and owners must be willing to implement such programmes.
"There is still a lack of awareness about the benefits of AC retrofitting," Al Ghussein said.
"The legislations that drive retrofitting and refurbishment are necessary in terms of setting guidelines.
"However, many developers and building owners aim to achieve only the minimum requirements set, instead of aiming for the maximum energy efficiency that the building is capable of.
"As a result, we are witnessing shallow retrofits across the industry, where developers and building owners opt for quick fixes, such as changing light fixtures and faulty AC units or chillers, as opposed to taking on the costs of changing the full cooling system."
However, Al Ghussein said he is optimistic about the retrofit sector's regional growth, particularly in the UAE – a market he named the Middle East's most avid proponent of sustainability programmes.
"The government initiatives currently in place suggest that the UAE is the most active in the [retrofit and refurbishment] space, driving the business faster than the other countries in the region," he continued.
"It has also served as a catalyst for the region in the renewable and efficient energy sectors."
Increasing tariffs could help raise awareness about the scope for energy conservation through intelligent AC management.
"By increasing tariffs, end-users will be more energy-conscious and, ultimately, building owners are driven to implement energy retrofits," Al Ghussein added.