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Why Jordan's buildings are thermally uncomfortable?

Dec 13,2018 - Last updated at Dec 13,2018

Jordanian households and public buildings are characterised by poor thermal insulation in general. Latest statistics show that less than 30 per cent of villas in Amman abide by the national building codes concerning thermal insulation, while 10-15 per cent of apartments abide by the building codes. However, smaller commercial apartments seldom adhere to building codes that regulate thermal insulation, with only 5-10 per cent of small apartments in Amman abiding by the regulations on thermal insulation. Therefore, and due to the lack of proper thermal insulation, we have the end product of a thermally uncomfortable environment inside the majority of dwellings and commercial buildings in Jordan.

The outcomes of such thermally uncomfortable homes, offices and public buildings are manifold, ranging from health hazards to environmental and economic concerns. A study by the University of Otago showed that a 1ºC in temperature inside homes causes a 2.6 per cent increase in monthly mortality rate in the UK.

As for correlating health issues to low temperatures in winter, the problem mainly lies in thermally uninsulated buildings, or improperly insulated, which happen as a result of randomly placing thermal insulation into the walls and roofs, leaving interruptions that cause cold joints, or due to using bad quality thermal insulator, etc. Low temperature of outside walls and roofs around the periphery of the house can drop to 12ºC on a cold winter day in Amman, while external ambient temperatures can drop to around zero Celsius. On such an occasion, a normal household would need to raise the temperature of internal spaces to almost 25ºC to start feeling comfortable. That is why most people do not feel thermally comfortable, even when the heating is kept on for long hours and at high temperatures. In this case, pollution is at its highest as the fuel burnt to produce energy emits greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. With the quality of locally-refined diesel being among the worst in the Middle East, the amount of pollution is horrendous.

Another factor that deepens the feeling of being thermally uncomfortable is low-quality windows and doors, especially the single glazed ones and those with a sliding nature, because air infiltration can be excessive, particularly on windy days. In average homes and at medium wind speeds, a dwelling experiences more than one air exchange per hour, meaning that much of the warmth produced inside the residence is replaced by cold air from outside in winter, or by warm and dusty air in summer.

The third factor is air infiltration from shutters’ wooden boxes which are common in Jordan. These boxes are in contact with the open-air and are generally neither air tight nor thermally insulated, which weakens the thermal characteristics of any home.

In conclusion, any procedure targeting saving fuel and enhancing the feeling of thermal comfort in buildings should start by solving air infiltration, upgrading windows’ thermal qualities and making sure that walls and roofs have proper thermal insulation. All other measures of increasing the heating load, diversifying energy sources or prolonging heating hours are a waste of money, unhealthy and end up adding more pollution to the environment.

 

The writer is an energy and green buildings consultant. He contributed this article to The Jordan Times. [email protected]

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