Dozens of government buildings in Abu Dhabi are set to be renovated in a bid to drastically reduce their energy and water consumption.
More than 30 existing buildings, including the Department of Health headquarters and the Department of Education and Knowledge, will be retrofitted with more energy efficient technology to align with the targets of UAE Energy Strategy 2050.
Simple changes will be made to the interiors of buildings including replacing lighting systems with LED fixtures, installing motion sensors and upgrading chiller units.
Many of the structures date back to the 1970s and 1980s.
Speaking to The National ahead of the RetroFit Tech Abu Dhabi Summit taking place this week, Khalid Al Qubaisi, chief executive of Abu Dhabi Energy Services (ADES), said energy and water consumption in each building will be cut by between “20 and 30 per cent once the retrofit is complete”.
“The energy consumption profile will be different for each of the buildings, hence the retrofit plan will vary depending on what the need is,” he said.
“There are three types of things when we look at a building to retrofit. Control measures, enhancements or overall measures, and replacement measures.
“Control measures include applying motion sensors so lights turn on or off when somebody is in or out of the room, as well as implementing temperature set points.
“Enhancements to appliances include changing compressors on air conditioning units and replacement measures refers to ripping out and completing replacing fixtures or fittings that are no longer energy efficient.”
Mr Al Qubaisi said because of the hot climate in the capital, keeping interiors cool accounts for the “biggest chunk of utility spend in buildings”, which is why they aim to improve cooling efficiency by setting specific temperature points on cooling systems.
Aircon set to 24°C is optimal
The optimal temperature setting in a building should sit at about 24°C when occupied, he said, and higher when a room is vacant.
Additional changes include replacing insulation and adding window films and solar panels where appropriate.
ADES will be funding and carrying out the complete retrofit of all the government buildings, with planning and development due to start within the next few months.
Once the implementation phase starts, it will take about 12 months to complete. The project will be in its final stages when the UAE hosts Cop28 climate talks next winter.
As sole funders of the retrofit, there is no capital outlay for owners. Payment for the service is paid back to ADES through the savings made on utility bills over time.
Road to net zero
In 2017, the UAE launched Energy Strategy 2050, which aims to increase the percentage of clean energy in the total energy mix from 25 to 50 per cent and reduce the carbon footprint of power generation by 70 per cent.
It also seeks to increase consumption efficiency of individuals and corporate entities by 40 per cent.
By retrofitting government buildings to be more sustainable and align with the UAE’s vision for a greener future, Mr Al Qubaisi said it is up to the private sector and building owners to do their part to reach those targets.
“We need to be united and adopt changes for a better tomorrow. It’s our duty as citizens of planet Earth,” he said.
“I think building owners should consider [retrofitting] for the purpose of reducing their carbon footprint.
“Secondly, there are a lot of benefits in terms of reducing potential operational costs of the building because energy efficiency projects thrive on things not breaking down.
The design implemented and technologies used minimise the chance of things breaking down, which cuts maintenance bills as well as energy bills.”