Designing data centers for a resilient and efficient future

By Ken Urbanek 

As keepers of mission critical information and mission critical operations, data centers must be resilient in the event of power or other infrastructure failures, so that clients have access to their information and operations at all times. While designs for data centers have some common concepts, each client will have their own unique needs and challenges. It’s important for our clients to consider the following questions when designing their facilities: 

Degree of criticality, the minimal percentage or fractional hours per year of down time your company can tolerate, directly correlates with revenue for data center operations. For mission-critical organizations such as 9-1-1 dispatch, down time could result in loss of life. Our clients’ degree of criticality informs how many system redundancies, such as back-up cooling and back-up generators, we need to engineer. 

Climate can affect the choice of location for data centers, making resiliency a significant requirement for critical facilities. For example, choosing to locate a data center above a 500-year floodplain is one of many key considerations for this type of large-scale mission critical project. Also, determining the hottest and coldest temperature of a given location, not only now but projecting into the warming future, critically impacts the design of the mechanical and electrical systems powering these types of projects.  

Energy efficiency continues to become ever more important in the design and construction of data centers, which are inherently massive energy consumers. In the past, equipment racks located in aisles and rows throughout a data center were often open. Today, these high-density equipment racks need to feature hot or cold aisle containment, which captures the heat coming off the system itself and funnels it into in-row or other cooling systems to optimize efficiency. Additionally, energy codes, such as ASHRAE’s 90.4 Energy Standard for Data Centers, require data centers to hit ever-evolving efficiency targets, something our clients need to consider when planning their facility.  

While there are many other factors that must be considered when designing a data center, these three questions will help the design team begin the planning process with precise end goals. Mission critical facilities are an important part of our infrastructure and must be designed to withstand a variety of challenges. 

For more information on data centers, read the full St. Louis CNR article I contributed to here. 

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