Determining if an Existing Facility's Infrastructure can Meet High-tech Needs

By James M. Krolikowski  
OTHER PARTS OF THIS ARTICLEPt. 1: This PagePt. 2: Increasing Data Center Capacity and Improving EfficiencyPt. 3: Cooling a Trading Floor's Data Center

For a technology-dependent corporation, finding the right building in which to buy or lease space can be a challenging task. The building selection process must match the potential load and its operational requirements with the office building's existing mechanical and electrical resources and constraints.

While the process is not simple, evaluating existing space for data center operations can be a worthy investment of both time and money compared to new construction. Examining existing base building systems first will help the facility manager understand what equipment or space is still needed. Regardless of whether the decision is an existing building or a new one, championing best practices will sharpen efficiencies.

The first place to look when examining existing building constraints is the tenant lease agreement. What is included, and what is negotiable? Standard lease terms usually define what the tenant can expect in terms of cooling from the building's central air and water systems, so it's important to examine the building's existing central plant. Additionally, research into the reliability and redundancy of building systems is crucial. Is redundancy already built into the central plant, or will the tenant need to furnish additional equipment to satisfy uptime standards? Is there back-up generator support for critical systems?

Infrastructure Capabilities

Before signing a lease, it is imperative to consider multiple sites and complete a total building analysis of each facility and its available support for technology-intensive operations. From piping riser sizes and capacity to chilled/condenser water availability, mechanical room space, floor-to-floor heights and electrical infrastructure, the building's existing blueprint will determine if it's a workable fit for tenant requirements.

Small piping risers with low capacity can pose a limitation in terms of how much supplemental cooling can be offered to a data center. Forty or more years ago, when many of today's high-rises were being built, the concept of distributing water to multiple individual tenant systems throughout the building was not a consideration, and therefore original piping infrastructure often lacks the flexibility needed to support today's loads. The question is: How many tons can be offered for tenant use without "starving" the systems that support the rest of the building?

While the existing mechanical equipment may or may not be a match for the incoming process load, the building's mechanical area or areas should be examined to determine whether there is adequate space to accommodate the tenant's supplemental systems without making any costly structural modifications, as well as its ability to accommodate future growth.

Structural floor-to-floor height is a large factor to consider as well. In most cases, it is cleaner and more efficient to deliver supplemental cooling via raised floor supply and ceiling plenum return. The shallower the workable volume in the raised floor area, the more challenging it will be to meet air flow and cooling capacity demands for high-density loads. Existing structural beams, duct work, sprinkler lines and plumbing will determine available ceiling plenum space. These elements typically occupy a foot or so of the available deck-to-deck height.

Existing building constraints often determine the rentability of a space for today's owners and building managers — so much so that downtown high-rises all over the country are now assessing and upgrading their infrastructure preemptively in an effort to position the building for technology-dependent potential tenants.

Mission Critical Networking

Facility managers too often work in isolation from others in the field, and so miss out on knowledge that could help them deal with technical, budget, political and career issues. For those involved with mission critical facilities, the conferences of the 7x24 Exchange offer valuable links to others in the field.

The organization's next conference — "Mission Critical Facilities: Leveraging Change" — will be held Nov. 14-17 at the JW Marriott Desert Ridge in Phoenix, Ariz.

7x24 Exchange conferences include a broad variety of topics that affect end-to-end reliability. The events are designed to encourage and facilitate dialogue and idea exchanges in both formal and informal settings.

7x24 Exchange members include those who design, build, use and maintain mission-critical enterprise information infrastructures. For information about the conference and the organization, visit

Continue Reading: Data Centers in Leased Space: Before you Sign

Determining if an Existing Facility's Infrastructure can Meet High-tech Needs

Increasing Data Center Capacity and Improving Efficiency

Cooling a Trading Floor's Data Center

Contact FacilitiesNet Editorial Staff »

  posted on 8/16/2010   Article Use Policy

Related Topics: