Seismic Risk Important Consideration in Data Center Design

  May 2, 2012

This is Casey Laughman, managing editor of Building Operating Management magazine. Today's tip is that seismic risk needs to be a consideration for data centers.

Earthquakes in Colorado and along the Eastern seaboard are reminders that seismic risk isn't simply an issue for California. What's more, good seismic design means strengthening both structural and non-structural components, such as fire sprinklers, emergency power and emergency communications. Structural components have received the lion's share of the attention in the past, but in recent years, non-structural components have been the subject of increasing focus.

Seismic compliance of nonstructural components is a complicated matter. Buildings in areas of high seismic activity have stringent requirements for mechanical and electrical non-structural components. Most areas of the United States, however, are exempt from seismic compliance.

The code trigger for many seismic requirements in both structural and non-structural components is the building's "seismic design category." The seismic design category is based on a structure's occupancy category and the severity of expected ground motion at the site.

Data centers — unless they are considered as part of essential facilities and are located in one of the four major seismic activity zones — are generally not subject to the most stringent seismic compliance requirements.

But just because seismic compliance isn't required for most data centers doesn't mean it's a good idea to ignore it. A robust design that can withstand seismic events can keep a facility from losing time and money to a data center outage. If emergency power systems continue to operate, they also help data centers by allowing the preservation of computer data to reduce financial risk and ensure business continuity during the actual quake and its aftershocks.


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