DC Pro Engineering is looking at new prospects and opportunities in India, Jordan, Egypt and Sudan.
"But it looks like these countries are more affected by the global financial crisis than the GCC. More than 150 economic zones were planned but no more than 20 or 30 will materialise. Still we are looking at five to six projects in India and are optimistic," said George Berbari, CEO of DC Pro Engineering. "It seems that Dubai is slightly affected by the economic crisis. But we are diversifying and have other markets that will compensate and sustain our growth, particularly, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. We have four projects in Saudi Arabia. We also have a few projects in Qatar, Bahrain, Muscat and Abu Dhabi."
The company's current order book is at Dh40 million worth of engineering works. Berbari spoke to Emirates Business on the issues plaguing the district cooling industry and the much-awaited green legislation.
What are the challenges facing the district cooling industy?
The challenges are phenomenal. I have recommended a night-and-day rate for district cooling and am engaging Dubai Electricity and Water Authority in the discussion. It is easy to point out the problem, but it is necessary to provide solutions. The slab rate is hurting the industry. This encourages people to install inefficient systems to get a lower bill and a majority of the players are passing on the annual demand rate to the end users. No one in the district cooling industry is making money. This industry needs government assistance, banking finance and regulations. Developers are complaining about it being imposed on them and the end user is complaining about the pricing. The market needs to be opened up.
What is your opinion on the emphasis on treated sewage effluent (TSE)?
TSE is available in large volumes in Dubai. But do we need a law to use TSE in district cooling? It can bring the rate down from 50 fils per tonne hour to 39 or 40 fils, but people are not using it. Tabreed's rate is 45 fils, Emicool 49 fils and Empower is 50 fils because they are using TSE. So the consumer will see the benefit. I am glad regulations are coming that will bring benefits to both district cooling providers and end users.
What are the changes you would like to see in the alternate energy industry?
Recently Masdar awarded a contract for a small solar power plant of 10MW for $120 million [Dh440.76m], or $1,200 per KW. This is a major investment. Ras Al Khaimah also has a test model for a 1 MW solar power plant, which is under construction as a test model for a bigger plant. But what I am disappointed at is the lack of data sharing by the leading organisations on their findings that we so badly need as a community. We publish all our data on our website for the general public. Some consultants ask us why we share our data so openly. But we get even more business through being transparent. We need to voluntarily share with the community and it will bring in more business.
How important is an energy-efficient design today?
So far we have designed more than one million tonnes of refrigeration for district cooling and 15 million square feet of green building designs. We did one voluntary solar energy study for WSP. We are also meeting Dewa to look up prospects in terms of green buildings. We did the green building code for Rakeen, which is now signed as a law. But we are finding a big gap between perception of green buildings and their practical and economic applications. Through our design, we have proved that 80 per cent of green building measures reduce construction costs by 60 per cent and energy and water demand by 30 to 40 per cent. This is a great benefit in these difficult times.
What are your views on the extensive use of glass in this region and what are the solutions?
What one needs to see in the UAE is a 20 to 25 per cent limit on the usage of glass in residential buildings and 40 per cent glass in commercial buildings. Those who comply must get credits for that because this can save energy. Leed only looks at the issue from the architectural angle. Some of the buildings on Sheikh Zayed Road have 67 to 70 per cent glass to wall ratio. The glass is dark and does not let in daylight. If you want curtain-walled buildings, then decrease glass, which costs double and needs more energy to produce. I would rather use less glass and that which has higher light transmission.
What is your view on the green building regulations?
Unfortunately, we are looking at Leed and Bream. I would like to ask if all we want is to achieve points or actually focus on the power crunch and what saves power? In terms of green buildings, I hope the regulations come soon – in the first quarter of 2009. I also hope that the current financial scenario does not affect the wider implications of green building regulations.
PROFILE: George Berbari CEO, DC Pro Engineering
George Berbari graduated with a degree in mechanical engineering from the American University of Beirut, Lebanon, in 1985.
He is an affiliate member of the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers and has had several papers published by the association. Berbari has more than 20 years' experience in the Middle East heating, ventilation and air-conditioning sector and was the engineering manager and one of the founders of district cooling utility Tabreed.
Electro-mechanical consultancy DC Pro Engineering was founded in the UAE in 2007.
The firm launched a green buildings division in April 2008, which focuses on reducing the energy use in buildings through electro-mechanical design. Initial contracts for the division include the MEP services design for several district cooling plants and the production of a green building standard and district cooling internal building code for Ras Al Khaimah-based Rakeen. Projects in hand include Dubai Investment Park, Dubai Pearl, Dubailand, Dubai Festival City and Danet Abu Dhabi, amongst others.
A district cooling system distributes thermal energy in the form of chilled water from a central plant to multiple buildings through a network of underground pipes.