Sunday 15 April 2018

District Cooling. Keeping cool in Dubai

It's almost summer in Dubai. The temperature is hovering around 35c in the day and 24c at night. If you've never lived in a country with heat like this, you'll probably won’t have thought how we keep it cool enough to live in.

There's a huge difference between 2 weeks of holiday sun than to living and working in these temperatures.

When we lived in the UK, our central heating system was never notched up above 21c. I was in the UK this February when the temperatures plummeted below zero for over a week during the heavy snow and the country couldn't meet the demands of heating houses, offices and shops. Our boiler broke down in the house we rent out to our tenants. I purchased them 3 heaters to keep them warm while we waited a week for the gas company to repair and then install a new boiler. I was on hold for almost 5 hours on the phone to get the repair booked. In general as long as you have enough money, you can keep warm.

Now imagine living somewhere where the temperature is higher than 21c almost all year round, reaching almost 50c in June and July and work out how to keep cool. The aircon units have been switched on now and they will run pretty much 24/7 now until the end of November. Taking a cold shower isn’t an option as the cold water tanks can run out the tap at 42c.

Our Villa has separate air-conditioning units in the bedroom and 2 central units, one for each floor. We pay huge electricity bills up to £250 a month to keep cool.

But for apartment blocks, offices and Malls, the demand is high for multiple use so this is where District cooling steps in, with centralised production and distribution of cooling energy, via underground pipes to cool the indoor air of the buildings. They cool sea water which is then piped into the buildings where specially designed units use it to lower the air temperature through the buildings air conditioning system. It’s rarely any cheaper to use this method but it does allow the country to keep up with the demands.

In every district around Dubai, you'll see buildings similar to these below. It took us a while to work out what they were for.

Viewed from the Burj Khalifa, you can see the size of the building and the area it has to cool.

Week 158 Bluewater Islands and Dubai Eye. Man made island a 210m high Big Wheel
Week 159 Dubai Marina - Reflections
Week 160 Dubai Frame. A window between the Old and New Dubai and a 150m high glass floor.
Week 163 New Metro Line for Expo 2020
Week 164 Hoover Dam 2002 - 2010
Week 165 Dubai Opera House What a difference a year makes
Week 166 Unfinished buildings. The Pentominium
Week 167 Mixing the old and the new. Coventry Catherdral
Week 168 New Dubai Metro Station 
Week 169 Dubai Mall and Burj Khalifa 
Week 170 After the Address fire 
Week 171 The Opus Building


  1. Amazing shot I’m sure it’s really difficult to keep cool in Dubai #mysundayphoto

  2. I know from all I've read of your blog just how unbearably hot it is there, but I'd never thought about how the air conditioning would operate.

  3. It's mind boggling to think of what it takes to cool such heat, and the disasters that might happen if things break down. I have not experienced heat over 40 degrees Celcius, and only very rarely. I am familiar with sticky humid tropical heat in West Africa and Indonesia (the town in Indonesia was sometimes called "the armpit of Java) and much of the time without AC except in the bedrooms. Even now every time I go outside in the fresh spring air here in France I take a deep breath and remember how I used to yearn for cool, fresh air while living in the tropics. Life is an adventure, sometimes good and sometimes not--my wisdom for the day ;)

    1. the only other time we experienced this was in Death Valley, but there was no humidity there and it felt very different

  4. This was a fascinating read. I do love a good bit of engineering. I recall from visiting Dubai how we all discussed the need for air conditioning. It would make perfect sense to centralise the cooling and use it communally. great images too. #mysundayphoto

    1. thank you John, I dont think people would be able to live here without it now, no idea how they coped 50 years ago

  5. That is amazing, I've never really thought about it before. I'm not sure I would enjoy the constant heat

    Thank you for linking up to #MySundayPhoto

    1. I don't like the heat either, hence why i spend so much time in the UK

  6. I can't even imagine prolonged heat like that for more than a day! I'd quite like to try though, its a poor 13 degrees here again today.

  7. This is so interesting....I don't think I would do well in the heat even with aircon x

  8. I absolutely hate constant heat like that when there's no escaping it. Believe it or not we had a bit of a heatwave in Bayern when I was heavily pregnant and super high temperatures (for Bavaria) of around 38c for 2 weeks, it was awful. I spent most of time in the cellar! :D #sundayphoto

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