First the good news: “If you’re involved in building and designing data centers, you’re in one of the fastest changing, most exciting, and most challenging and complex areas of technology and construction there is today,” said Robert E. McFarlane, principal of Shen Milsom Wilke, LLC.
McFarlane was speaking at Professional Women in Construction’s (PWC) recent Data Center Technology Forum held at Club 101 in NYC. The caveat from McFarlane: “There’s no room for error.” The program provided an opportunity to meet some of the most significant owners, developers, designers, engineers, managers and builders, of today’s modern data center environments.
McFarlane discussed the immense costs involved: ten times per square foot greater than other construction, i.e. a single cabinet can cost a million; and “the value of the data …is incalculable.” He enumerated some of the many complex needs of data centers, including dealing with heat densities of 45,000 Watts or greater; cooling high heat loads; energy efficiency; and construction techniques in a concentrated space.
Dennis Cronin, COO of Steel ORCA, LLC, spoke of the current wave of new technologies and stressed that “things are changing so rapidly, if you don’t listen, you’re left behind.”
He spoke of the trend towards smaller data halls; the need for “digital bursts” which provide extra capacity during spike seasons; and the emphasis on physical security.
Paul Hines, vice president, data center operations & engineering, Sentinel Data Centers, discussed the paradigm shift in the industry wherein enterprises now see the value of wholesale co-location.
He explained, “We provide flexibility so there’s no need to over-commit: the necessary infrastructure capacity is in place on Day 1 with options for tenants to increase load densities and/or square footage with 90-days notice.” It is also difficult today to validate the need to build and operate a company’s own data center. He stressed the benefits of being “staffed entirely by Sentinel employees” who undergo continuous training and participate in monthly events that explore “what if” scenarios.
Ronald H. Bowman, Jr., executive vice president, Structure Tone Mission Critical, agreed that co-location was the trend and noted that the fear of financial loss drives the market. He spoke too of the improved knowledge of the highly educated end user.Bowman discussed hardening of facilities to withstand acts of God, man-made disasters and human intervention, a practice originating from the military that has become increasingly prevalent post-Katrina, Irene and Sandy. He said that Structure Tone has a global footprint with projects in Asia, including China, the UK and Ireland.
Daniel Kennedy, senior sales engineer with Tate Access Floors, Inc., said that data center construction is “like nothing else in the industry,” a “great market to be involved in” that continues to expand. He discussed proper air flow control; containment mechanisms; airside economization and ASHRAE’s stated goal of no mechanical cooling systems; greater involvement from IT end users; and new methods of divorcing IT air flow from personal space.
The goal of all: save energy and reduce operational costs.