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HENDERSON HEADLINES

CHILLERS: PLANNING SUCCESSFUL REPLACEMENTS CAR E F U L P L AN N IN G CA N HE L P MANAGERS DEVELOP AND EXECU T E PR OJ E C TS T H AT DE LIVE R LO NG-TERM BENEFI TS. Authored by: David DeBiasse | August 15, 2018 Whether a chiller has reached the end of its useful life, the facility has experienced growth, or the phone is ringing with comfort complaints, it might be time for a replacement. Going through a major equipment replacement can be a stressful proposition for maintenance and engineering managers. From scheduling and product selection through start-up and warranty, managers can take several important steps to improve the effectiveness of chiller replacements. These tactics also can reduce risk and help deliver a successful infrastructure improvement. TAKING THE LONG VIEW One of the first steps to a chiller replacement project should be to assess the area currently served and the condition of system components. Space size and utilization change constantly. Chances are, the load requirements are vastly different than when the chiller was first installed. This equipment can last up to 30 years, and a lot can happen in that time. Once a manager determines the current needs of the space, the next step is to consider system capacity based on needs that will be incorporated over the next five years. Considering current performance and future use helps ensure a new unit is sized properly for that next 25 years. If the chiller’s capacity is indeed increased to accommodate future needs, it is time to start looking at other components. Does the cooling tower or piping need to be upsized to accommodate the new chiller capacity? Have other components outlived their useful lives? The best time to replace these components would be during equipment replacement to avoid more downtime and cost, as well as inconvenience. The assessment process should be a collaborative effort between the manager and a consultant. Information gathered during this process enables the designer to specify the most appropriate equipment and address other issues within the cooling system’s operation. This collaboration also will establish a baseline of expectations for the project. A LOOK AT LOGISTICS Once a manager has selected the equipment, it is time look at project logistics — the physical and functional constraints. Identifying the equipment’s location and the way it will get there has a direct impact on chiller specification. The facility might require temporary equipment if the new chiller is going to be installed where the existing unit is located or if the space served is critical in nature. These considerations also will affect the shutdown period.


CHILLERS: PLANNING SUCCESSFUL REPLACEMENTS Once a manager has determined a path to the installation site, the next step is to incorporate sizing requirements into the specification. This step helps determine if the unit can arrive assembled or if it requires assembly when it arrives. Managers also need to consider other project components, such as the electrical system. If the investigation leading up to this point suggests the new chiller will require additional capacity, managers need to confirm that the existing electrical service can support it. The replacement design also will need to address whether the chiller should connect to emergency power. SPECIFYING EQUIPMENT Managers must incorporate long-term goals in chiller selection because it is a large investment with an exstensive lifetime. Using the information from the assessment and logistics investigation, managers next need to determine the type of chiller required. A manager might have a preferred manufacturer based on the current system, controls setup or vendor agreement. Most chillers last 25-30 years before the operation and maintenance costs outweigh the cost of replacement. It is important to incorporate long-term goals in chiller selection because it is a large investment with an extensive lifetime. If the replacement project is in response to a chiller at the end of its useful life, a manager might consider installing temporary equipment to avoid the risk of an unexpected outage. At this point, the team should have enough information to select a chiller. Even though the design is not complete, the major elements for choosing a chiller are in place. If possible, this point in the process is the best time to order new equipment. The rest of the design can take place without affecting product selection. Preordering equipment shortens the schedule by nearly 30 percent, and it helps the construction team schedule installation in the best seasonal window. Using the purchased equipment also enables the design team to accommodate equipment connections, pipe routing, service clearances, and tube pull around the actual chiller being installed. CLOSING THE DEAL If previous planning and investigation indicate the need for temporary equipment, managers need to determine the placement and installation of that equipment first. Consider the logistical requirements of installing the actual chiller when selecting the placement of the temporary piece. It is important to protect the path and installation site of the new chiller. Managers must verify the connections and supporting systems. While this information was taken into account when specifying the chiller, minor construction might need to occur before installation to make more room. The installation plan needs to include the construction schedule. It is helpful to install when the equipment is not in peak season. Chiller replacements are most successful in the winter, when cooling loads are at a minimum. Depending on the space the chiller serves, an acceptable amount of time during non-business hours might be available when the chiller can be shut down. But if the space is critical or incorporates 24/7 operation, the acceptable amount of downtime for the equipment could be much shorter. Consider a retail space versus a hospital. A store generally has a 10-hour window when it is unoccupied. This time is a good window to install the new chiller. But in a hospital, most chiller zones include one or more critical spaces, which means the shutdown time for this equipment is much shorter. In some cases, an acceptable shutdown window might not exist, and this is where the temporary unit comes into play. Coordination between the facility and project team is vital to the success of these projects. Once the team determines the shutdown time, the installation team can outline the resources needed and schedule the construction.


CHILLERS: PLANNING SUCCESSFUL REPLACEMENTS CONTRACTOR CONSIDERATIONS In cases where managers need additional help, considerina contractor can help deliver a successful project. Depending on the experience of the in-house facility team related to chiller replacements, internal or on-call construction managers and engineering staff can complete much of the prep work. But in cases where maintenance and engineering managers need additional help, such as construction managers, engineers, and contractors, considering these issues can help deliver a successful project: Reliable project experience. Replacing a chiller in regular operation is much different than replacing one in a critical operation. When choosing a consultant or a contractor, managers need to note the areas of the project that are of greatest concern and look for companies that address those needs with experience and successful projects. Familiarity with the facility. If a manager has contractors and consultants in good standing who have similar experience, these companies often can be the best choice for the project. If managers do not have trusted partners to complete the work, they should ask their colleagues about companies with whom they’ve had success. Safe and consistent processes. When selecting external resources, managers need to make sure their procedures protect the interests of the facility and its operations. Managers can discover these qualifications through past experience and a project approach or by contacting references. Managers need to rate the installing contractors on these measures and on their safety practices. All contractors should provide a documented safety plan. This document outlines their safety processes, training program verification, OSHA compliance, and insurance information. EXECUTING THE PROJECT The steps to this point have created a detailed plan for executing the project, known as the method of procedure (MOP). The MOP documents all the information pertaining to the design, schedule, installation and connection to supporting systems. The project team reviews and signs it. All that is left to do is execute the project. Communication and coordination must continue throughout construction. The construction manager and onsite team can assist if a concern arises during installation, but information in the MOP should mitigate major challenges during construction. Once installation is complete, technicians should thoroughly test the system, and facility staff should receive training to ensure long-term success. A commissioning agent can help achieve the best results for this part of the project. While contractors or equipment vendors can deliver this type of testing and training, a commissioning agent works on behalf of the owner or occupant and is locked into the project from its initial requirements through adaption to the facility’s operation. In the current construction climate, securing funding for infrastructure improvements, such as chiller replacements, is difficult. Unfortunately, major construction has a reputation for costing more than estimated, taking longer than planned, and leaving issues unsolved. The considerations outlined here been developed to help mitigate these risks. By thinking beyond the current project and planning for long-term success, managers will be able to approach these projects objectively and navigate them with confidence that the team will meet needs and limit the surprises.

DAVID DEBIASSE As the general manager of Henderson Building Solutions, a construction and commissioning company that is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Henderson Engineers, DeBiasse manages and trains team members, oversees contracts, manages project completion, and leads the estimating group. He leverages his previous industry experience as a contractor to deliver solutions to clients.

Henderson Building Solutions — Chillers: Planning Successful Replacements by David DeBiasse  

David DeBiasse is the general manager of Henderson Building Solutions, a construction and commissioning company that is a wholly-owned subsi...

Henderson Building Solutions — Chillers: Planning Successful Replacements by David DeBiasse  

David DeBiasse is the general manager of Henderson Building Solutions, a construction and commissioning company that is a wholly-owned subsi...