4 Critical Concerns for Data Center Construction Projects – Before Building

You know for a fact that “The Cloud” is really just a room of computer servers somewhere. You also know that the number of new data center construction projects has dramatically increased in the past two years and is expected to continue exponentially. That’s why you’re here.

Recent years have altered how many companies do business — probably yours too. From grocery stores researching how to automate part of the shopping experience to the massive growth of e-commerce traffic and the need for warehouses, flexibility has kept businesses open and driven innovation.

How do data centers fit into that? Data centers are the hub of these new business ventures and quickly growing online services. They provide computing power and storage space for our increasingly virtual world and you could even argue our society would not be able to function without data centers.

In 2020, AP News reported on the increase in data center construction and noted the industry’s CAGR was projected to be “over 10%” into 2024. If you don’t know, CAGR, or Compound Annual Growth Rate, is the amount of revenue an investment is expected to grow over a certain amount of years if you reinvest that money. The CAGR can be used for investment forecasts.

To put that in perspective, in 2019, before the pandemic, AP News reported that the industry’s CAGR was going to be around 9%. Demand is already quantitatively increasing and you need to get ahead of the game — now is an opportune time to begin planning.

Before the shovel hits dirt though, it’s a wise idea to choose a contractor that’s familiar with the design and construction of such large and complex structures. Extensive consultations determine your needs and wants in a facility. This is where you begin to flesh out the bones of your building, working in close collaboration with your design team.

It takes a lot to get to even that point, however, and you’re ready to get started. There are steps you can take now to speed up the process, and you can begin gathering the information your chosen builder will need.

But where do you start? What are the most important data center requirements you should consider? The following 4 topics are the most important concerns for your project:

  • Site Selection
  • Power Demands
  • Insulation and Cooling Needs
  • Safety and Security Concerns

Site Selection for Data Centers

As they always say in real estate, what are the top 3 things to consider about a property? Location, location, location! Not everyone is planning a vast QTS data center construction project, but you still need to carefully select a site.

In fact, almost all other considerations involve selecting the ideal site, but we’ll get back to that. Your site needs to be in an area with a strong existing or developing infrastructure to support the facility. People and power will be needed, so remote locations may find it harder to meet data center requirements and employees may be hard to find.

You can also choose a site eligible for very tempting tax incentives — and there is an estimated $1.5 billion in data center tax incentives available in the United States. That’s not something you want to ignore.

As for the actual structure you build, site selection can also influence cost-effective building solutions. Metal building systems offer our clients an extremely versatile, low-maintenance, and energy-efficient building option. Pre-engineered metal building systems can also be designed for an extremely wide range of challenging sites and are versatile enough to support unique site features.

Steel building systems easily and efficiently accommodate the technical components of data centers, like the liquid cooling systems Meta is using to upgrade its current collection of centers. These building systems can be designed with variable wall and roof slopes and any one of the available energy-efficient and highly insulated wall and roofing systems.

Like the racks housed within, metal building systems are all about efficiency.

Power Demands for Data Centers

Data centers use about 1% of the entire world’s energy supply. While the quantity of data centers has grown, they’re also innovating to be more energy-efficient. The site you choose should have an infrastructure that can support your building.

The power grid and municipal infrastructure are critical. As Data Center Frontier notes you can’t just consider current energy requirements either. Decades ago computers required a fraction of the energy they do now. While almost all industries are creating higher-efficiency products, the demand for energy will also increase regardless of how efficient computers can get.

You’d rather avoid situations like these data centers faced in Texas, as reported by Data Center Knowledge. After historically cold temperatures froze the state in 2021, failures in grid management began a cascade of other failures across the state — services were interrupted all across Texas.

Not all owners were prepared for the unusual weather and backup systems did not support their businesses as intended. Cooling systems failed. Diesel fuel for generators and other equipment was hard to move and expensive if you could get it — also due to the lack of power.

Insulation and Cooling Needs for Data Centers

If you’re here, you know just how critically important cooling is for a data center. Choosing the wrong designer or builder can have far-reaching impacts on your business. Cooling system failures cause decreased server performance, and it doesn’t stop there. Service losses combined with decreased performance create a lack of confidence from investors and clients, puts your name in the media, and can have unforeseen business consequences.

Rising global temperatures are creating the need for constant cooling innovations. High-profile cooling failures like Google experienced in London during record-setting high temps are expected to increase. As Wired discusses, historical data, which is commonly used to determine data center cooling requirements, is soon to be outdated.

Fan systems, insulation, and liquid cooling systems all offer building owners an option for maintaining safe temperatures. Liquid cooling systems, like the ones Meta plans to use, are far more efficient than older systems.

Safety and Security Concerns for Data Centers

DDoS attacks are not the limit of data center security concerns. Physical security requires a compatible building site and personnel if required. Location within a reasonable distance of available employees ensures proper staffing, so assuring your building’s ideal location comes back into play.

Other physical security concerns include how to limit access, whether through the main office mantrap, or proper physical security systems. A mantrap limits who can access a building and provides a single point of entry to verify visitor credentials. They are very expensive however and can cause issues with both ADA and fire safety compliance. A seasoned design-build firm can help you navigate the requirements.

Fire safety presents another major physical security concern at data centers. Not taking fire safety seriously caused huge issues for the French cloud provider OVHCloud. In the middle of the night at 12:40 am in March of 2021, one of their data centers in Strasbourg, France was engulfed in flames. The subsequent fire ravaged one entire building and tried to engulf another before the fire could be brought under control.

Over 100 firefighters and several pieces of large equipment eventually extinguished the flames — and the entire ordeal opened the company to a €10m class action suit from clients. The suit claims the company’s fire preparations were inadequate. Could the entire ordeal have been avoided?

Choose the Right Data Center Construction Team

Choosing the perfect site for your data center construction project is really just the tip of the iceberg. Housing cutting-edge computing technology requires the use of cutting-edge construction technology and choosing your builder should be done carefully.

As a design-build specialist, DD Construction can help with pre-construction steel building design, procurement, and installation as well as a reference to trusted general contractors in your area. Our experience with data centers offers you a leg-up when planning your next project. We use powerful software to foresee construction issues before they arise and to properly design your data center for the latest, most-efficient systems.

Contact us today for a consultation.


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