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, replacing one that had been built in 1961. The new CUP was designed to improve energy efficiency, reduce emissions, lower utility costs, and improve total heating and cooling capacity for LAX, but, after its completion, Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA) sought to optimize the CUP’s performance even further and brought Birdi on board.

Birdi used a root cause analysis to identify opportunities for improvement, mapping a Concept of Operations using our Systems Facilities Operations Readiness™ (SFOR™) methodology. SFOR™ is Birdi’s systematic approach to identifying the gaps between the current operational state and the desired state, the risks, opportunities for improvement, and alternative solutions. Over the course of interviewing dozens of stakeholders, we identified more than 80 opportunities for improvement and developed solutions to optimize CUP performance.

Elements of the analysis included:

  • 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


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 Two 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, Birdi 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 opportunities to optimize the system. The complete set of criteria was an essential guide for the Birdi team to develop practical solutions that can be implemented to achieve optimal operational performance.

In the Risk Mitigation Report, Birdi summarized the gaps and associated risks that emerged from the LAWA CUP assessment study. Then for each set of gaps and risks, Birdi summarized the cost impacts or operational impacts of the gap. The 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 improve the CUP’s 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. These packages were summaries of the packaged solutions, their costs, and their estimated schedules. They were used as an organizational tool to demonstrate the scope and schedule of the risk mitigation steps.

In the final step, Birdi transitioned the ConOps and the gap analysis into a reference document for a possible enterprise-wide master implementation plan for optimizing the CUP’s operational performance. We have since commenced four projects that will reduce water usage, emissions and costs while improving component lifespans:

  • Condenser Water System Optimization
  • Electrical Infrastructure Extension
  • Electrical Resiliency Analysis
  • NOx Emissions Control Retro-Activation