Centralized District Cooling Plants: The Economic and Sustainable Approach for a City Within a City

Mehdi Jalayerian
Executive Vice President & Chief of Innovation
Environmental Systems Design, Chicago

When building a city within a city, creating a centralized district cooling plant is more energy efficient, cost-effective and sustainable than constructing individual plants at each building. By analyzing real-life data from various projects worldwide, a theoretical energy model can be developed to test this hypothesis through simulation.

Energy efficiency increases with larger, more efficient equipment and a centralized district cooling plant operates with a stable load profile, rather than responding to individual building load spikes. The installed cooling capacity reduces greatly, given that the centralized plant can account for significant diversity, which results in lower equipment and installation costs, economies of scale, easier centralized maintenance, and additional usable area at each building, among other benefits.

This presentation assesses how much more efficient a centralized district cooling plant is and how much installed capacity can be reduced compared to individual plants. The presentation also defines best-practice approaches based on simulations of centralized plant variations including climate, operating temperatures, thermal storage and proximity to the site. District plants can facilitate a 10-20 percent reduction in installed cooling capacity, or up to a 50 percent reduction if thermal storage is utilized, which can help lead to a more sustainable future in the world’s largest cities.