Packaged Utility Plants:  Are They Really Plug-And-Play?

Over the past few years, the central utility plant construction industry has experienced increased use of pre-manufactured, or “packaged”, central utility plant strategies.  This factory-built approach to delivering central cooling, heating and power has the potential to positively impact project schedules, costs and quality.

However, there are some misconceptions.  For example, owners and contractors may be tempted to think these packaged solutions are “plug-and-play” – where all the coordination happens before shipment, driven completely by the packaged plant manufacturer.  In that case, on-site field work for assembly, start-up and commissioning is more of an afterthought.

Our experience developing, installing and commissioning packaged utility plants has shown there are no plug-and-play solutions.  As a result, the Greenland team has developed a roadmap for success when a packaged plant is the right approach for a client.  Some considerations include:

Design/Engineering  —  Often the building owner or contractor may assume the engineering effort provided with the packaged plant will also cover systems and components external to the plant.  This results in gaps in the analysis, which can have negative impacts and shortfalls to the plant design as well as the external systems (mechanical, electrical, etc.).

  • The Greenland Solution:  Our in-house associates (led by the Project Manager) are experts in mechanical and electrical systems. In concert with our design/QC engineering team we are able to identify and address any gaps, ensuring the plant design is aligned with the larger effort.

Specification Interpretation – There are often assumptions that the packaged plant manufacturer will meet or exceed the applicable specification and design-guide requirements of a particular project/institution – even when the specification is written around a field-built (stick-built) plant design.

  • The Greenland Solution:  We make sure our team knows and is familiar with the Owner’s standard specifications and design-guidelines.  Because of our experience, we know the areas where a typical packaged plant manufacturer looks for production efficiencies when interpreting stick-built specifications. Our team identifies and resolves any discrepancies as early as possible to ensure they do not become an issue during either the fabrication and assembly, or commissioning phases of the project.

Field Assembly – When planning for a packaged plant, we have found that those unfamiliar with the process can underestimate the breadth and depth of work required in the field after delivery of the packaged plant module(s).  There are complex, timing-critical processes needed to complete system assembly, and unfamiliarity with the unique requirements of modular assembly often results in schedule delays and cost overruns.

  • The Greenland Solution:  Our team develops a project-specific responsibility matrix that outlines a detailed list of activities along with who is responsible, when it happens, and where (field versus factory). This responsibility matrix is used to develop and finalize contracts with the packaged plant provider, along with all subcontractors on the team who will be interfacing with the system assembly.

Packaged utility plants can be a great option for constructing a new plant or upgrading an existing plant, but like any project, the details determine project success. If you are considering a packaged plant, be sure to contact us today for more information about Greenland’s experience with the packaged central plant approach.