LAWA Case Studies in Energy & Utility

The Central Utility Plant (CUP) at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) provides heating and cooling to all terminals and electricity to parking structures and streetlights in the Central Terminal Area (CTA). The current CUP was completed in 2015 as a replacement for the existing CUP, which was constructed in 1961. The new CUP was designed as a modern utility plant to improve energy efficiency, reduce emissions, lower utility costs, and improve total heating and cooling capacity for LAX. Currently, the CUP faces various issues that prevent it from performing as designed. These issues have either persisted since the commissioning phase of the project or have arisen over time. Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA) desires to resolve these issues and improve the performance of the CUP. Therefore, Birdi team was brought on board in order to identify the issues through root cause analysis, mapping Concept of Operation using SFOR methodology as a systematic approach to identify gaps and risks, and opportunities for improvement and by alternative solution evaluation and value engineering created a master plan and project list  to be considered for the next phase.

Birdi performed as the main consultant to the LAX Central Utility Plant (CUP) for assessment of the facility and its operations to recommend multiple system integration enhancements. The assessment utilized Birdi’s SFOR systems engineering process to interview dozens of operational stakeholders, identify over eighty system gaps, and develop solutions to mitigate system risks.

Project elements were including:

  • Current Conditions Report
  • Concept of Operations (ConOps), using Systems Facility Operations Readiness (SFOR) methodology
  • Gap Analysis and Problem Statement Report
  • Desired Outcomes Report
  • Risk Mitigation report and Technical Problem Solving
  • Program Development for Enterprise-wide master retro-activation program


The Scope of the ConOps encompasses all functional areas of the CUP, including:

  1. Generation and Distribution of Hot and Chilled Water for Heating and Cooling
  2. Generation and Distribution of high-voltage electricity using 2 cogen sets
  3. Consumption of Utilities (Water, Electricity, and Natural Gas)
  4. Emissions Reductions
  5. Fire and Life Safety
  6. Plant Operations
  7. cybersecurity
  8. Administrative Processes Approach


The ConOps process included:

  1. Documenting baseline project requirements
  2. Surveying existing facilities and operations in the CUP and LAX terminals
  3. Reviewing as-built design drawings, system manuals, commissioning reports, sequence of operations, PLC code, data from the CUP’s historian database, and optimization reports
  4. Documenting current conditions
  5. Interviewing and coordinating with project stakeholders to formalize stakeholder requirements
  6. Identifying gaps between stakeholder requirements and current conditions and associated risks
  7. Developing the ConOps document


To conduct the gap analysis, the Birdi team used the list of desired outcomes that was developed from stakeholder interviews conducted during the Discovery Phase. For each of those desired outcomes, the Birdi team identified all the current conditions from the CUP that pertain to that outcome. The Current Conditions report served as a basis for identifying the current state of the CUP. For each outcome and their corresponding current conditions, the gaps were identified as the critical differences between the current state and the desired future state. Each gap was elaborated as clearly as possible to communicate the shortcomings of the system. The complete set of criteria was an essential guide for the Birdi team to develop practical solutions that can be implemented to “close the gaps” and achieve complete operational readiness.

Through its assessments, Birdi has identified operational weaknesses and determined mitigation strategies. In the Risk Mitigation Report, the Birdi team summarized the gaps and their associated risks that were found over the duration of the assessment study of the LAX Central Utility Plant (CUP). Then for each set of gaps and risks, the Birdi team summarized the cost impacts or operational impacts of the gap. The Birdi team then summarized its recommendations for best mitigating the risks of each gap or set of gaps. Those mitigating steps outline a plan for the CUP to effectively address the gaps and improve the CUP’s operations. The goal was to improve operational efficiency, improve cost efficiency, and reduce risk.

As a preface to the main content of the Risk Mitigation Report, the solution steps were organized into Project Packages. The Project Packages were summaries of the packaged solutions, their costs, and their estimated schedules. The Project Packages was used as an organizational tool to demonstrate the scope and schedule of the risk mitigation steps.

Eventually the ConOps and the gap analysis transitioned into a reference document for the possible enterprise-wide master Implementation Plan for resolving issues within the CUP’s operational environment.