Here we constructal design to determine the area size (or number of users N) to be allocated to a central refrigeration plant, and to configure the distribution network for the distributed cooling system. The main objective is to maximize the net cooling capacity delivered to every user, and to minimize the pumping power required for transporting the chilled water. Two types of distribution networks are investigated: radial and tree-shaped networks. First, when ducts with a single diameter are used, the net cooling capacity delivered to every user is almost the same, while the pumping power requirement for the tree network is greater than that for the radial network. Multi-diameter tree networks are investigated next. The pumping power requirement for multi-diameter tree-shaped network is less than for radial network when N is greater than 19 if the flow is laminar, and when N is greater than 80 if the flow is turbulent. The global performance of the area-based cooling system can be improved by increasing the freedom to morph the configuration. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.