10 Benefits of Modular Fabrication

The modular chiller plant is a self-contained chilled water production system. An efficient and affordable alternative to the traditional stick-built chiller plant, the modular chiller plant works equally well in a building mechanical room without an enclosure, and in an open environment with an enclosure to protect the components from the elements.

The modular chiller plant is pre-engineered and fabricated with all system components. Packaged in a skid, the module is pre-piped, wired, tested and shipped to the job site where the water and power connections are made.

Modular does not mean one-size-fits-all. The modular chiller plant can be designed for primary secondary, variable primary or fixed primary operation, and it can be customized to special engineering requirements for component type, manufacturer and model.

Why Modular?  10 Key Reasons

Stellar Energy's fabrication facility in Jacksonville, Florida.

Superior quality and reduced construction time are advantages of modular fabrication.

  1. Superior quality of the finished product especially in locations where skilled craftsmen are in short The quality of welding and assembly of pipe and components is improved due to interior fabrication conditions, and the types of tools and assembly equipment available in a shop environment.
  1. Improved energy performance from the optimization of equipment and piping. Due to engineering experience and know how that has been developed over years of chiller plant optimization, the length of pipe and the number of pipe fitting are reduced. This not only saves money for the material and their installation but it also reduces the friction losses that have to be overcome by circulating pumps. This saves substantial amounts of pump energy.
  1. Reduced construction time. The time it takes to construct a building so that it is ready to receive chillers, pumps and related electrical equipment is greater by several months than the time that it takes to produce all of that equipment. With a modular approach, there is greater control over the fabrication schedule (no weather delays, for example) so the chiller and other components are assembled and ready for delivery in a completed module as the building is ready. The two to four months that it takes for assembly
    Modular systems are delivered to site pre-piped and wired.

    Modular systems are delivered to site pre-piped and wired.

    of each piece of equipment, along with interconnecting piping, on site is saved.  In addition, control systems are configured for the chilled water system prior to delivery of the module to the site eliminating weeks of on-site programming trial and error. This savings comes at the end of the project when otherwise lost time cannot be made up. So the weeks of on-site programming and “tweaking” that are saved result in direct time savings to the overall project schedule. Furthermore, when a pre-insulated structure encloses the modular chilled water production system the entire plant comes to the site ready to operate as soon as water pipes and electrical feeds are hooked up to it. This adds another level of schedule time and cost savings to a project that can accept a fully enclosed chiller plant.

  1. Reduced total project cost. The time saved in the construction schedule results in less time the work crews spend on the project site. This saves money as a result of the actual project time plus the overhead costs that are required to keep a construction site active. This is a savings for the contractors as well as the building owners.
  1. Accurate control system implementation. Control algorithm and sequences are developed as part of design of the modular chilled water production system before the modules are delivered to the project site. This is a departure from the standard inefficient practice that has a control technician working with the installation contractor and several different equipment manufacturers on-site in an attempt to meet all of the equipment operating requirements as well as the construction schedule. This rush near the project completion causes mistakes and omissions that plague nearly every project. The result in nearly every case is months, sometime years, before the control system functions efficiently and as needed.
  1. Reduced space requirements. The typical chilled water plant design for a field erected chiller plant consumes 1.45 square feet to 1.65 square feet of building space for every cooling ton of output for the chiller plant. Modular chiller plant layouts result in 30% to 35% savings in space.
  1. Improved safety. For a modular chilled water production system, assembly of the large piping and support components that are part of a chiller plant are done in a controlled, clean environment with the right overhead lifting equipment to assist assembly. These conditions are much safer and preferable to erecting piping and components in a building that is under construction with less than complete services available to the workers.
  1. Greater level of guarantee provided to the In most traditional chiller plant contracts, each manufacturer guarantees his equipment and the assembling contractors guarantee their piping and electrical installation work. When a problem occurs, there is frequently finger pointing between the various contractors and manufacturers as to who should bear the fault and therefore the cost and the responsibility to repair. However in the case of a modular chilled water production system, all of the same guarantees are present with the additional overall blanket guarantee from the modular supplier who takes responsibility for the entire chilled water production, not just a part of it.

    Modular chiller plant being loaded onto shipping barge.

    Self-contained, modular chiller plants can be transported worldwide.

  1. More flexibility. Another advantage to the modular approach is that the chiller can be relocated if needed, such as in the case of a consolidation or construction project. Also, the plant exterior can be customized to match or complement existing buildings or aesthetic requirements.
  1. Increased scalability. Finally, more capacity can be added as needed with little or no disruption in operation. Companies are better able to plan for the future while building and paying only for what is needed now.

Key Application: Data Centers

The modular chiller plant is the perfect complement to modular data center sites. According to Uptime Institute’s Data Center Survey, 58% of data centers either have used, or are planning or considering to use, modular data center construction. The reasons for this are primarily cost savings, with a secondary reason of reduced construction time. Modular chilled water production systems fit perfectly with this trend towards modularization as there are no brick and mortar buildings in which to install conventional chillers and their related components. The modular chillers can be designed to meet uptime and redundancy requirements for mission critical environments like data centers, and engineered to maximize power usage effective (PUE) ratios.

Additionally, the efficient scalability opportunity of modular chillers allows data center owners to add cooling capacity quickly as needed without disruption to service.

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