Utility Master Planning Ensures a Cost-Effective Expansion
July 01, 2003

By Staff
Appeared in R&D: Lab Design Handbook

Utilities—particularly heating, cooling, and electrical power—represent a huge line item for the ongoing operation of R&D facili-ties. In addition to an overall master plan, a utility master plan can help you ensure systematic and compatible growth of plant systems and avoid costly quick fixes in years to come. An up-to-date plan will also save you time in the design and bid process for future con-struction jobs.

A comprehensive utility master plan may analyze many systems, including: high- and low-voltage electric power, steam, high tem-perature water, chilled water, condenser water, fuel oil, natural gas, stormwater, sanitary sewer, fire water, domestic water, domestic hot water, heating hot water, compressed air, nitrogen, communica-tions, and life safety. At the very least, the plan should cover the three systems with the greatest impact on building reliability and cost efficiency: power, heating, and cooling.

The plan should summarize immediate needs, short-term needs (2 to 5 years out), and long-term needs (5+ years). Engineers creat-ing the plan should analyze first cost, operating cost, and life-cycle cost for various proposed system configurations. These analyses are often aided by sophisticated computer software that allows multiple “what if” scenarios to be applied. As a result, the planners will rec-ommend one or more system configurations to meet the site’s cur-rent and future technical requirements. Systems that offer the great-est flexibility to accommodate future changes are often preferred.

An implementation plan should then be created, outlining exist-ing conditions (the means of generating and distributing energy) and describing steps to be taken to meet the site’s immediate, short-term, and long-term utility needs.