Considerations in the Development of a District Cooling Project

Project management is the application of knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques to project activities to meet the project requirements. Each District Cooling project is individual and comes with its own unique set of considerations, and management must keep all of this in mind. Considerations for a District Cooling project might include the local climate, planning and permitting requirements, regulations, economics, and an understanding of the technologies involved in District Cooling.  The processes for which a Project Manager is responsible basically fall into five categories, these are:

  • Initiating
  • Planning
  • Executing
  • Monitoring and Controlling
  • Closing

Project Initiation

Project management of a District Cooling project begins as soon as the project becomes a consideration. The studies done to consider the feasibility of a District Cooling project all fall under project management. Those studies will, of course, help to decide if District Cooling is a viable option, but they will also help the project manager and those working with him to make many important decisions about the project. Questions answered during the initial phase might include:

  • Determining the area to be served (district)
  • Determining the number of customers to be served
  • Estimating system demand
  • Initial climatology considerations

Project Planning

Initial Planning

Once the Project Manager and stakeholders decide that District Cooling is feasible, and the initial questions about the project have answers, the project manager will begin more in-depth planning of the project. One of the first tasks at hand is to obtain detailed climatology data from the region, using local data whenever possible. This data is then used, along with other information collected during the feasibility study and available bench-marking data, to create a cooling load profile for the future District Cooling plant. The Project Manager and the team of professionals also use the information available to them to determine the optimum location, or in cases of multi-plant sites locations, for the District Cooling plant from available properties within the district. The team will consider factors such as the piping, existing and proposed buildings, the cooling demands, estimated needs for space, and others as they apply to a project.

Concept Design and Analysis

The Project Manager will then direct a design team to generate a concept design or in many cases two or more concept designs, for the proposed District Cooling plant using the cooling load profile already created and the other information about the project obtained to date. The design team considers the information that the project manager has already gathered to determine which concepts would work best for the given project. The Project Manager then uses the concept designs to generate cost estimates for the construction of each concept design using actual equipment costs and labor costs for the project area. The Project Manager must allow for contingencies; a typical value is generally about 20-25% of the projects estimated cost. However, a projects contingency could vary significantly due to various factors including the location of the project, the temperatures in the region, the size of the proposed district, will there be a single cooling plant or two smaller plants, the timing of construction, and many others.

Cost-Benefit Analysis

The Project Manager then looks at the concept designs developed to determine any benefits which may be associated with each design concept; some examples of benefits might include increased efficiency, shorter piping runs, and others. The Project Manager, or assigned members of the team, then calculate a cost for each of the benefits on the list; taking care not to underestimate costs or overestimate benefits with a conscious effort to avoid any subjective tendencies. The Project Manager finally compares the results of the overall costs to the benefits of each conceptual design quantitatively to determine if the benefits on one design clearly outweigh the costs, any risks, and the benefits of the other designs.

The Project Manager then confers with the project stakeholders to discuss the concept designs, cost benefits, any risks and makes a determination as to how the project should proceed into the final design stage. The Project Manager and the stakeholders may decide that one concept has clear advantages over the others and choose to proceed to final design with that concept. Alternatively, they may determine that further review of the project is necessary to see if additional adjustments can be made to increase benefits, decrease costs, or perhaps even combine aspects of two designs. Rarely, some stakeholders may choose to delay or abandon a project as non-viable at this stage. The Project Manager returns to the design team with the determinations made with the stakeholders, and the design team initiates the design phase of the project, which was determined to be the most viable.

District Cooling Project Book by ARANER

Project Schedule

The Project Manager can now generate a relatively accurate project schedule using the selected design. Many other factors must also be considered when creating a schedule. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Lead times for equipment manufacture and delivery
  • Potential for delays in construction caused by extreme temperatures or inclement weather conditions
  • The availability of workforce for the project
  • The possibility of having to coordinate with other construction in the district
  • Downtime due to holidays, training, or other occurrences
ARANER construction on a District Cooling project

A District Cooling project by ARANER

Lead times for equipment tend to be one of the biggest headaches when it comes to managing a project schedule as the gas turbines, chillers, and other types of equipment frequently used in District Cooling project often have a substantial lead time. This lead time can be mitigated by having a separate procurement contract whereby once the design is selected and finalized the stakeholders authorized the Project Manager to order the equipment necessary to complete the project. Procurement contracts often allow the project manager to choose a delivery date which will coincide with the carefully constructed project schedule and allow the equipment to be offloaded directly into place, ready to be fastened down and connected.

Choosing the right supplier may also help to eliminate, or lessen, the equipment lead time, but this should only be done when the benefits clearly outweigh any risks associated with selecting the manufacturer in question. The Project Manager and the design team will likely be aware of any risks, but they may also call past customers of the manufacturer to ask them about their experience before making a final determination concerning that manufacturer.

Project Budget

The Project Manager must continuously monitor and control the project during construction to ensure that the work meets the expected standard of quality and that the project is on time and budget. The process of controlling includes monitoring of:

  • Scope
  • Time
  • Quality
  • Costs
  • Risks
  • Supply

The Project Manager must then determine how these factors are proceeding in comparison with the plan, recognize any anomalies, and implement corrective action to ensure that the project moves ahead as planned. The Project Manager must look at costs to determine where the project is with regards to the budget, activities implemented compared to the project schedule, and so on; this must be done regularly so that any deviations can be detected early while still relatively small and easy to correct. It is also essential that the entire project team is involved in control and provides accurate information to the project manager regarding any problems or deviations.

Conclusion

Regardless of the project, it is nearly always a primary concern to stay on schedule, and within budget, with a District Cooling project, it is of utmost importance with customers relying on the project for service. A well-known cooling solutions provider, ARANER can design, manufacture, install, commission, and supervise the project from its initial conception to completion. Our staff covers all the different disciplines necessary for a District Cooling Project, including Mechanical, Electrical, Civil, and Control. We work with the most sophisticated tools, equipment and machinery, coupled with innovative project management methodology to keep projects on time and within budget.

 

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