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(13 Posts)
Esri Regular Contributor

By Tom DeWitte

In January 2020, Esri launched an initiative to create a Utility Network data model that would enable District Heating and Cooling industry (DHC) customers to more fully leverage the ArcGIS platform. From the beginning, this was undertaken as a collaborative effort involving Distributors, Business Partners, and customers. To assure the initiative factored in regional requirements, working groups for North America, Europe and Asia were formed.  These working groups are comprised of volunteers from DHC organizations, and the business partners and Esri Distributors who support them. These working groups started meeting virtually twice a month in March.  This blog is an update on the progress made by these working groups in our efforts to create a geodatabase data model for Steam, Heated Water, and Chilled Water pipe systems with the Utility Network capabilities, by the end of 2020.

Its Taking Shape

In February of 2020, a team of Esri staff started meeting with DHC organizations to begin the process of understanding these pipe systems and the assets which comprise them. Thru March and April the aggregated feedback from these organizations has started to coalesce.  With this coalescing of feedback, a geodatabase data model with utility network capability is starting to take shape.

As the feature class subtypes, attributes, coded domains, and default values settle into a final schema, other aspects of a geodatabase data model are starting to be defined.  These are the business rules of District Heating and Cooling.  In the just released Alpha 3 version of the data model, you will see some initial defining of Contingent values.  Over the course of the summer, this will be expanded to include attribute rule calculations and attribute rule constraints.

Alpha3 will also be the first iteration of the data model to start to include the Utility Network specific definitions and rulebase. With Alpha 3 you will see the first iteration of definitions for the pipe system tier group, and its tiers of system and pressure. Alpha 3 will also include beginning rulebase definitions for containment and connectivity.  These too will be enhanced thru additional iterations over the course of the summer.

We Have Sample Data

We have data!! 

A sample data set is an important part of the data model template download.  It allows everyone to see through a map what part the data model assets play in the pipe system and where in the pipe system these assets appear.

With the alpha 3 posting of the DHC 2020 data model, we will be including for the first time our developing sample data set.  This data set will include examples of steam, heated water, and chilled water pipe systems.  You can download the DHC 2020 Alpha 3 version here.

Much Yet To Do

Building a spatially aware data model requires a little more work than defining a standard relational database data model.  Over the next several months, the working groups will continue to build out this data model.  This work will center around how the inventory of DHC pipe system assets interact with each other.  With upcoming releases of the data model over the summer of 2020 you will see the result of this effort in the defining of:

                - Connectivity rules to define how this pipe system should be assembled

                - Containment rules to define within which facilities these assets are allowed to reside

                - Contingent values to define the dependency between an asset’s attributes

                - Attribute rules to automate data entry and improve data quality

                - Subnetwork definitions to define the subsystems of the pipe system    

There is much yet to do.


Even though there is much yet to do, this effort is on schedule.  But we are always looking for more volunteers with industry knowledge to help with this effort.  If you work in, or support the Steam, Heated Water, or Chilled Water utility organizations and are interested in joining one of our working groups, please let us know.  You can contact me via geonet or directly via email: tdewitte@esri.com.

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Esri Regular Contributor

By Tom DeWitte and Tom Coolidge

Utilities are the hidden systems of pipes and wires that make modern life possible.  They are critical to the ability of humans to live in increasingly dense urban communities. 

Today, many utility industry thought leaders increasingly are wondering “is the future the past?” In the early days of energy being delivered to customers through pipe networks, the energy, gas or steam, was manufactured locally and transported a short distance to local consumers. Over time, in the case of gas, business reasons drove the gas utility industry toward a smaller number of larger utilities. Scale became essential. Achieving scale was made possible through development of a national transmission pipeline system capable of transporting large volumes of gas from distant sources, replacing local production. All the while, locally-produced steam energy continued to be delivered through District Heating and Cooling systems. Now, in many areas, District Heating and Cooling systems are booming, and gas utilities driven by environmental factors are looking anew at local production of bio-methane.

Yet, if you asked the average city dweller to name the utility systems existing in their metropolitan area, they would likely mention, water, sewer, electricity, gas, and phone.  But it is unlikely, they would mention District Heating or District Cooling.  District Heating and Cooling is the industry that heats and cools many of the university campuses, hospital campuses and core metro buildings around the world. In the United States alone, there reportedly are approximately 660 systems heating and cooling over seven million square feet of building space!

But it is also the utility system that the average city dweller is most likely to be unaware of.  It is the Stealth Utility.

The Stealth Utility

Just how prevalent are these stealth utility systems?

-If you went to college in a northerly location, such as Iowa State University or University of Minnesota, your dorms were most likely heated by a district heating system using hot water to heat your room.

- If you went to New York City to see a Broadway play and stayed at a nearby hotel, most likely your hotel room was heated by a district heating system.

-If you visited a European city such as Amsterdam, most likely the hotel you stayed at and the restaurant’s you frequented were heated by district heating.

-If you visited Dubai, your hotel room was most likely cooled by a district cooling system.

-If you are sitting in a major Asian metropolitan community in South Korea, northern Japan, or northern China, it is most likely that your building is heated by a district heating system.

There are literally thousands of these heating and cooling systems around the world.  They are so seamlessly integrated into an individual building’s heating or cooling system that most of the building’s occupants have no idea that it is heated or cooled water which is making their dwelling or office so comfortable. Like a military stealth plane, it flies under the radar of most people’s awareness.

What is a District Heating System?

A District Heating system is at its most basic a pipe system carrying heated water to customers.  The customers use or extract the heat from the water to heat their homes, drinking water and showers.

Diagram of District Heating System

What is unique about this pipe system compared to other pipe utility systems like water or natural gas, is that the water once shed of its heat returns to the heat plant to be heated again.

What is a District Cooling System?

District Cooling also uses a pipe system carrying water. Except, this time the water being transported has been chilled. When the chilled water reached the customer, it is used to absorb the building’s heat to cool the building.

Diagram of District Cooling System

The now heated water is returned to the cooling plant where it will shed its heat and again be chilled.

More Efficient

District Heating and Cooling systems are considered one of the most efficient methods for providing heating and cooling to an urban community. Having the heat generation and heat dissipation done at a centralized location provides economies of scale that are difficult for individual buildings to achieve.

This is especially true for the cooling of large buildings in a business district.  When each building provides its own air conditioning systems, the buildings begin competing against each other.  The heat exhaust of one building can generate heat for its neighbors.  Those neighboring buildings then must have their air conditioning systems work harder to remove the heat from their buildings.

Heat Exhaust from One Building Heats Its Neighbors

With a District Cooling system, the waste heat can be pumped to the edge of town and removed from the returned water.

It’s Not Poisonous

Another likely reason for District Heating and District Cooling being a stealth utility system is that it is extremely safe. The commodity being transported through the pipe system is water. It is not explosive, or shocking or poisonous. When a District Heat or District Cooling system fails its does not generate the type of news coverage that a large electric power outage or a natural gas explosion would generate.  Simply put, these systems generally stay off the front page of the news.

Stealthy Comfort

The next time you visit a major metro business district, look around. If you do not see smoke or steam being exhausted from the building, there is a good chance that is because of District Heating and Cooling. This utility system is keeping everyone in the building in stealthy comfort.

PLEASE NOTE: The postings on this site are our own and don’t necessarily represent Esri’s position, strategies, or opinions.

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Esri Regular Contributor

Welcome and thanks for joining District Heating and Cooling group on GeoNet! To get started we invite you to first review the group features on the overview page and familiarize yourself with the group info, and GeoNet 101 information in the left column.


As you explore the group, you’ll also find tools to connect and collaborate so we encourage you to use them to share files, create blogs, ask/answer questions and read the latest blogs posts and join discussions.


Next, we invite you to post a comment below to say “hello" and introduce yourself and share your ideas on how to leverage the ArcGIS Platform to meet the needs of District Heating and Cooling organizations.  


We’re excited to connect and collaborate with you and we look forward to seeing your contributions.


Esri District Heating and Cooling Team

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