Data Centers' Intricate Designs

April 05, 2016

Data centers are important structures that hold vital information for businesses, schools, public agencies, and private individuals. If these mission critical facilities aren't properly designed and equipped, the gear inside and the data the servers handle is at risk. Consulting Specifying Engineer asked EYP's Robert Eichelman which trends engineers should be aware of when they're working on data centers or data closets in mixed-use buildings.

In a mixed-use building, there are inherent risks to a data center that aren’t present in a dedicated data center facility. Steps must be taken to minimize these risks and to ensure that tenants, and the systems that support them, have the least possible impact on critical operations.To this end, all electrical and mechanical infrastructure that is required to maintain power and cooling to critical IT equipment should be dedicated to the data center. Ideally this would include dedicated electrical services, generators, chiller plants, fuel oil systems and all related downstream distribution and equipment. Equipment should be located in dedicated spaces that are accessible only to authorized data center personnel.

In cases where separate electrical services are not practical, steps should be taken to ensure that faults on the tenant system do not affect the data center.This should be considered in the over-current protective device coordination study for the facility. Utilities that serve other tenants or the building as a whole, such as distribution piping, sanitary and roof drains, fire protection piping, electrical feeders and branch circuits, and telecommunications cabling systems, should never pass through the computer room or data center support spaces. The floor slab above the data center should be completely sealed, without any penetrations, to ensure that water does not migrate into the data center if a flooding condition were to occur on an upper floor. Security measures, beyond those which are common for a data center, should be considered at the common entrance to the facility; this could include personnel and vehicle screening, access controls, intrusion detection, and video surveillance systems.A dedicated building for a data center is always preferred.

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