Who wants a straightforward project?

Published:  02 June, 2011

Coolmation, chiller, refurbishment, air conditioning
In city-centre projects such as this installation in the Holborn area of London, equipment may need to be located out of sight.

When did you last work on a straightfoward project? Steve Warnock enjoys the occasional challenge he faces when supplying and installing chiller-based air-conditioning plant.

We live in an age where all of us demand that our suppliers go ‘the extra mile’ in the products and services that they provide. In the tough economic environment we find ourselves in, providing added-value is more important than ever. Companies are fighting hard with one another to win the business that is out there, and it is vital to offer that extra edge over the competition.

So how does this impact on the building-services sector?

The pressure is invariably on equipment suppliers to deliver more compact, more reliable, quieter, and more efficient products. In today’s market, these are far from unusual expectations. Suppliers must also support the technology they offer with service that is second to none.

As well as energy efficiency, dimensions have become a real issue, with available plant-room space often restricted to eye-watering levels. Noise can also be a factor, especially in city-centre locations where the restrictions on acoustic levels are more demanding. It is not unusual for these factors to coincide, especially when the project is located in the challenging environment that is Central London.

For landmark buildings in prominent high-visibility locations, the aesthetics of the real estate often takes precedence over the demands of the building services, and how and where they are installed. In this type of project, the chillers needed to provide the comfort cooling, and associated services may be located out of sight, in very tight, recessed roof spaces where height restrictions demand that they are not visible above the roofline.

The result is challenging for any M&E services contractor and equipment manufacturer seeking to square these limitations with the performance requirements necessary to deliver an effective air-conditioning solution. Standard chillers invariably will not cut it. Instead, it becomes essential to work with a supplier having the capability to deliver specially designed and manufactured units that can be tailored to the needs of the project. Chillers can then be provided that precisely meet the dimensional characteristics and performance requirements of a project.

There are other advantages with the custom-designed approach. For example, we recently worked with our supplier Rhoss to supply two 1150 kW project-specific R134a air-cooled chillers with a total of six screw compressors for a central-London project where space was an issue. By designing a bespoke solution for the project, we could ensure that each chiller was fitted with primary and secondary pump modules to speed up the installation process. Being considerably more compact, the internal layout of the chillers was also carefully designed using a 3D imaging process to ensure good all-round access for service and maintenance.

This particular application was relatively straightforward, since there was clear access and space to locate fully assembled chillers. However, many chillers are being considered for replacement where the installation circumstances are much less favourable.

Coolmation, chiller, refurbishment, air conditioning
Replacing a chiller where access is restricted can be tackled by building it in the factory, breaking it down and reassembly it in situ. This example is an 800 kW water-cooled chiller with a screw compressor.

These chillers are typically at the end of their practical lifecycle, unable to be converted to conform to current F-Gas Legislation, or simply too small to cope with an more cooling load.

It is unfortunate that, many units have severely restricted access, due either devel­opment of the site around their original location, or because they have been installed in confined internal or basement plant rooms.

In these cases, the only solution is to remove the old chiller piece by piece and install the replacement in the same way.

Our preferred solution in these cases is to prefabricate chillers, whether air or water cooled, creating sub-assemblies which are then fully assembled in the Rhoss factory. These units are tested and given their quality and Eurovent performance accreditation before being broken down to a small number of sub-assemblies for transporting and re-assembling on site. Designated CKDs, or ‘complete knock downs’, this solution has proved a saviour on many refurbishment projects.

One such requirement called for the replacement of an existing 900 kW air cooled chiller, with access completely restricted since its installation. The client had specified a replacement featuring Turbocor oil-free centrifugal compressors. With input from Coolmation, Rhoss designed and produced a Turbopower chiller in easily handled sub-assemblies, fully assembled it for factory testing, broken down for transportation and re-assembled on site by Rhoss and Coolmation engineers.

In such situations, special attention can also be given to energy-efficiency and sound-levels. The supplier and manufacturer that is set up to design and build units tailored for individual projects is typically equipped with the facilities to run full performance and acoustic tests on the specified chillers before installing them. This gives the building-services project team confidence that the chillers specified will meet the energy-efficiency levels stated and a noise level, for example, of 72 dB(A) in open freefield conditions that is typically required in city-centres.

In difficult times when we all have to fight hard for business, this kind of innovative, specialist service can make all the difference. There are plenty of chiller companies which talk a good game of customer service but very few with the commitment and capabilities to deliver it.

Steve Warnock is managing director at Coolmation Group.

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