ABU DHABI // Many buildings in the emirate waste energy used for air conditioning simply because they "leak," officials and consultants said yesterday.
A government proposal to reduce energy consumption would send staff into existing buildings to conduct energy audits. The "Comprehensive Cooling Plan" must still be approved by leadership, but if it goes forward those auditors would search for inefficiencies in air conditioning systems and check for wasteful policies like keeping the building the same temperature all year round.
"There's so much wasted energy," said Edwin Young, a programme adviser for Estidama, the Urban Planning Council's sustainability programme.
One challenge is buildings where windows and doors were not sealed properly during construction.
Simon Clouston, the director of sustainability and energy at WSP Middle East, said auditors can address the problem by pumping non-toxic smoke through a building.
"You can literally see where it leaks," Mr Clouston said. "It's usually around the edges of doors, windows ... and then it's about going around and sealing those gaps."
Other modifications include switching old light bulbs for more efficient technology and installing shading outside windows, said Holley Chant, director of sustainability at KEO International Consultants.
Another measure auditors can take is making sure building staff understand how to operate their temperature control systems. "We did an energy audit at a big hospital in Abu Dhabi last year which had quite good building control systems ... but because the operators didn't understand them, they didn't use them," Mr Clouston said.
Ms Chant said staff sometimes override energy-efficient control systems "because the direction books aren't in their language".
Other energy-saving modifications, like glazing windows or installing better installation, are barely visible, said Rahim O'Neill, an associate planner for Estidama. "You don't see these changes, although it's having a dramatic impact."
Finally, officials can reduce energy consumption by encouraging building owners and residents to make behavioural changes, Mr Young said.