Leakage issues

The panel also debated which of the two scenarios was more dangerous: water leakages in pipes, or in ducts. Nair said that the temperature of the medium must be considered before deciding.

“You are comparing 4-5°C of water being carried in pipes compared to 23-24°C of air,” he said, adding that comparisons would be unfair.

Mishra argued that generally, duct leakages could lead to energy losses, while pipe leakages could be disastrous, particularly to false ceilings and other structural elements.

Nair countered, however, stating that duct leakages were the bigger risk, because they “are never seen”. BK Gulf’s expert said leakages were among his team’s biggest challenge at the commissioning stage of a project, adding: “On every job, we spend manpower and money to find ways to reduce leakages through commissioning, and during construction this is not visible.

“At BK Gulf, we are putting a regime in place where we actually leak-test all the ducts going into the concealed areas and shafts. A building can never be leak-proof, but we try to limit the cases,” he added.

Khansaheb’s Groves stated: “We are carrying out a project now with a big multinational company, where the insulation work for one of its buildings was not done properly. So we are carrying out a complete analysis with a consultant to make proper recommendations. I think proper ductwork and insulation can lead to meaningful savings.”

Regulations and responsibilities

Groves said he believed that many consultants overlooked issues related to ducting and insulation, while Nair said that stakeholder roles and involvement also played a role in the process.

Nair continued: “I think the biggest problem is that none of the people who are involved in the construction phase are really responsible for the building’s power performance after construction.

“The consultant designs, and he or she is typically given some figures on how to optimise the design. After handover, the bill is borne by the tenant, so owners are not really involved either. There is no onus on any of the designers to come back and say how their design action might affect costs. It is all on paper, as figures and percentages.

“Unless you put the onus on the people who are selling or designing to actually show that savings are achieved, little can be changed,” BK Gulf’s Nair explained.