Canadian Consulting Engineer

Cooling The Towers Of Dubai

Toronto-based NORR Architects and Engineers design tall buildings in Dubai and other Persian Gulf states where the hot and humid climate hovers around 40C for much of the year. NORR designed the sign...

August 1, 2009   Canadian Consulting Engineer

Toronto-based NORR Architects and Engineers design tall buildings in Dubai and other Persian Gulf states where the hot and humid climate hovers around 40C for much of the year. NORR designed the signature Emirates Tower, as well as the Shangri-La Hotel, both over 48 stories in Dubai. They are also the architect of record for the Burj Dubai, the world’s new tallest building, which is nearing completion.

Chris Pal, P. Eng., director of engineering for NORR in Dubai, explains that while the architecture of towers in the Gulf states is futuristic, their building systems have many of the same components as in North America or Europe.

“Much of the technology is the same,” Pal says. “Obviously we don’t need heating in Dubai, and free cooling (using outside air) is not viable. The devices that we control might be a little different. But we have cooling, we have dehumidification, we have to all intents and purposes all the things we would have in North America. So the automation system itself has to be smart enough to do all the same kinds of things there as here in Canada.”

Pal says that single-sourcing building automation systems isn’t common in Dubai. Instead, the towers tend to use BACnet as the open protocol to harmonize different manufacturers’ products. The devices themselves may have distributed intelligence, he says, “But every singer has to sing from the same songbook, so they’re all reporting back to a mothership, as it were, on a BACnet compatible network.”

Because the largest towers and complexes are multi-use, each occupant zone will tend to have autonomous building systems control. There might be two hotels, office space and residences all in one development. “They all want control of their own destiny,” Pal explains. “A five-star hotel, for example, must react in minutes if there is an air-conditioning problem.”

At the same time, those autonomous systems are all connected together ” so that the building owner can monitor information such as doing energy analysis, trending, costs, etc.

Pal says that despite the steaming temperatures in Dubai, some of the older buildings are actually uncomfortably chilly inside. That’s because the building systems try to make up for lack of dehumidification by excessively cooling building spaces. Dehumidifying enables temperatures to be kept a little higher, increasing comfort and saving energy costs, a factor that is becoming more important as LEED-Silver is being mandated for new buildings in a large swath of the city.


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