District Heating and Cooling Blog

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(7 Posts)
Esri Contributor

Looking for a better solution for managing your steam, heated water or chilled water pipe system? Please join us October 28th from 11:00am – 11:30am U.S. Central time for a brief 20-minute presentation on using ArcGIS for managing the assets and systems of your District Heating, Steam, and District Cooling pipe systems. See all the details at: https://imgis2020.esri.com/exhibitors/11EAFD0B4900378082654F82FCF35551/See-a-Demonstration

This presentation is part of Esri’s Infrastructure Management and GIS conference. The conference is complementary to all Esri customers that are current on maintenance and subscriptions.

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New Contributor III

By Anastasiia Savchenko and Tom DeWitte

The summer is done, and the falling leaves are hinting that winter is coming. But progress on the District Heating and Cooling (DHC) data model continues its steady pace to completion.

Since the late August release of beta 1, we have been working towards a mid-October release of beta 2. This will be the final beta before the release of version 1 later this year. With beta 2 the data model is feature complete, and many of the lessons learned from testing have been incorporated. Overall, this effort is on track to be completed before 2020 ends.

Here is a brief summary of what’s left to be accomplished prior to the release of version 1.

Data Model

During the month of September testing was performed to check the ability to create and maintain information managed with the data model.  More challenging was the testing to verify that the structure network defined for this data model could be loaded into existing Esri Utility Network data models for water, electric, and gas.  Issues identified by these rounds of testing have been incorporated into the beta 2 version of the data model.  Beta 2 is feature complete. No more modifications other than corrections identified thru testing are planned before the final release.

Data Dictionary

Writing a data dictionary is not fun, but it is very important to explain the what, the how, and the why of the data model.  Work on the data dictionary has been ongoing and is currently about 66% complete.

This data dictionary will include a description of each feature class subtype layer.  For each subtype layer, a full description of each attribute that is appropriate is provided.

Additionally, the data dictionary will include a listing and description of each attribute rule that is to be included with the data model.

Sample Data

The sample dataset continues to evolve.  More detail has been added as well as continual cleanup of the pipe system connectivity.

If you would like to see the sample data in action, click on the link below to see a Storymap containing interactive 2D and 3D maps:


As this data model nears completion there is one more outstanding task.  This is the task to create an iconography-based symbology style set specifically for this data model. Being an iconography-based symbol means, no alphanumeric characters. The goal is to use universally recognized images to represent each unique type of asset.  These types of symbols can be used world-wide regardless of the native language. 

Test Drive

If you are interested in reviewing and testing this data model, you can download the ArcGIS Pro 2.6 compatible asset package from here: https://community.esri.com/docs/DOC-15522-district-heating-and-cooling-data-model-beta-2 

If you are interested in deploying this data model to support your system or record needs, please let us know.  You can contact us via geonet or directly via email: tdewitte@esri.com, asavchenko@esri.com .

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Esri Contributor

By Anastasiia Savchenko and Tom DeWitte

The Esri User Conference is done, and summer is rapidly coming to an end. But progress on the District Heating and Cooling (DHC) data model continues.

Since the early July release of Alpha 4, we have been working towards a mid-August release of beta 1. The goal for beta 1 is to have a complete rule base, network attributes, summary attributes, attribute rules and subnetwork definitions. With these additions to the data model we are getting very close to being feature complete. Let's discuss these remaining items in detail.

Rules, Rules, Rules

         A key component to the Utility Network is its ability to help data editors to enter and update components of the pipe system correctly. This not only improves data quality it also improves editing efficiency by helping editors enter the information correctly the first time.  The upcoming beta release will be the first release with a full set of connectivity rules to join the previously defined sets of containment and attribute rules.

Network Attributes

Network attributes are the utility network variables that allow summary attributes and trace tasks to be able to leverage a feature’s attributes.  This upcoming release will contain an updated set of network attributes.

Summary Attributes

  For each unique type of subnetwork, a specific set of summary attributes can be defined. These summary attributes will leverage a network attribute to define the information from the pipe system components to be summarized for a specific subnetwork.  For example, each pressure zone currently has the following summary attributes which the software will automatically tabulate.

  • Total Pipe Length
  • Total Transmission Pipe Length
  • Total Distribution Pipe Length
  • Total Supply Pipe Length
  • Total Return Pipe Length
  • Pipe Volume
  • Number of Valves
  • Number of Pumps
  • Number of Heat Exchangers
  • Number of Expansion Joints

Testing and more Testing

Before the beta can be released, there needs to be testing of the rule base and testing of integration with the other domain specific data models.  This is an important step to insure that multi-utility organizations are able to easily append this DHC 2020 data model onto electric, gas ,water, and other Esri domain specific data models.

Almost Done

            There are still a few aspects to modeling District Heating and Cooling systems that need to be completed.  First is understanding how to correctly model a Leak Detection system so it can be created, maintained, and traced with minimal effort and no duplication of data.  Second is the creation of a data dictionary, and third is the creation of a symbology style set.


            Even though there are still a few outstanding items to complete, 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 us via geonet or directly via email: tdewitte@esri.com, asavchenko@esri.com .

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New Contributor III

By Anastasiia Savchenko and Tom DeWitte


In May, we published the first progress update about a new Esri initiative to create District Heating and Cooling Data model. This post is the continuation of the effort to keep you informed about the District Energy data model's latest developments.

The newest release of the data model is Alpha 4, and it includes the updated sample data, attribute rules, terminals, subnetworks, and heat exchanger configurations. Let's discuss all these changes in more detail.




Sample Data Progress

It is vital to provide a sample dataset, a well-thought digital twin of the several district energy system configurations. Thus, the sample data's newest version includes the supplemental configuration of the hot water and chilled water systems. Modeling this way is suitable when the district energy system serves several buildings (for example, row houses), but it measured by one meter. In this scenario, the meter measures consumption at the end of the service line, from which energy transported to multiple buildings through the network of customer pipes. Often urban areas with high population density have limited underground space, making it essential to use such system configurations.

Introduction of the Business Rules

Improving the editor's experience through automation and a strong rule base to help the editor enter the information correctly the first time is a key benefit of business rules.

Alpha 4 is the beginning of the inclusion of attribute rules to the data model template. Attribute rules are a principal geodatabase capability of the Utility Network technology. Adding these rules is essential. They will make sure that your digital twin satisfies the business-specific requirements of the industry.

The Alpha 4 release of the DHC data model includes a set of calculation attribute rules. Calculation attribute rules are responsible for an automatic population of the attribute based on the defined expression. An excellent example of this is the rules which will calculate pipe surface area and pipe volume based on the pipe shape length and diameter.

More attribute rule calculations and attribute rule constraints will be added in the beta release of the data model template.

Introduction of the Contingent Values

In addition to the attribute rules, the Alpha 4 DHC data model includes contingent values. Contingent values are the recently-added capability of the geodatabase. Their primary function is to prevent users from entering invalid values by restricting the list of valid values for the attribute field.

For example, the pipe selection of the materials available to the user changes based on the type of the system the pipe belongs to – whether it is hot water, steam, condensate, or chilled water system.

Terminal Configurations

In Utility Network, it is possible to model devices with a higher degree of realism by defining terminals. In the district energy system, terminals represent the incoming and outgoing flow of the hot water, chilled water, steam, or condensate.

The newest DHC Alpha 4 data model includes terminal configurations for the bypasses, customer connections, and heat exchangers. The newly added terminal configuration of heat exchangers is critical to tracing analytics with this data model template. It allows for downstream traces that follow thermal energy flow through the heat exchanger and follow water flow, circulating into the heat exchanger, and then loop back.

Subnetwork Configurations

Besides attribute rules and terminals, the Alpha 4 DHC data model continues to build the subnetwork configurations. Subnetworks model the subsystems of a District Energy pipe system such as thermal energy system zones, pressure zones, and circulation zones. Subnetwork consists of all the participating features in the topological subset of the tier. These features include devices, lines, and junctions.

Modeling of thermal energy flow vs. water flow

In the district energy system, the commodity: hot water, chilled water, or steam; being transported thru the pipe system is not consumed directly by the end consumer. Instead, commodity transports and delivers the thermal energy it carries. In comparison, in other utility systems, the commodity consumed at the customer location. For example, drinking water runs from the tap; electricity provides light and power to the appliances; gas feeds the stoves and heating units. In these typical examples, the commodity runs from the source to the consumer device where it is consumed (sinks).

The customer does not consume the district energy commodity. Instead, commodity warms or cools the surroundings through which it runs due to a combination of thermal processes - convection, conduction, and radiation. The heat exchanger is the device used to transfer the thermal energy without also continuing the flow of the commodity, which creates a unique modeling situation for district energy systems.  The flow of thermal energy is not always the same as the flow of the water or steam!

The Alpha 4 release is the first release to provide a configuration that allows users to perform traces of the water flow through the pipe system and trace the thermal energy flow through the pipe system.  Here are some videos to show you downstream traces of the thermal energy and the water flow.

You can run the trace for water flow through circulating with the heat exchanger (scenario 1).

Or you can run the trace of the thermal flow through the heat exchanger (scenario 2).

Not Done Yet

There is still lots to be done! Although it is summer and work is usually slow due to vacation, the goal of the community is to stay productive and continue evolving this data model template.

As the model moves from alpha to beta, you will see further refinement of the subnetwork definitions, summary attributes, and network attributes.  You will also see the addition of more attribute rules and connectivity rules.  Stay tuned!


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 us via geonet or directly via email: tdewitte@esri.comasavchenko@esri.com.

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Esri 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 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 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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