Optimizing Data Centre Design and Operation

The market for data centres is constantly evolving as new advances in areas such as cloud computing and energy efficiency shape the way these facilities are developing.

Keen to demonstrate leading-edge thinking in this field, our UK mission critical team, known as Power Systems Plus, recently took a stand at Data Centre World, ‘the world’s largest, most influential gathering of data centre expertise’ at the Excel in London. During the event our specialists in the design of mission critical facilities presented two innovations they have developed to optimize data centre design and operation.

Edward Drake Building - Communication Security Establishment (CSE) Headquarter, Ottawa

Optimizing the Design Strategy

The highly complex environment of the data centre requires the highest level of precision. Data centre design engineer, Oliver Titley, and BIM expert, Matt Astle, explained how this and any design strategy can be optimized through a centralized BIM approach. They highlighted the benefits that can be achieved by introducing a building workflow process into the BIM model. These include improved collaboration, with all engineers working on the same model; greater consistency and reduced potential for human error, thus also minimizing construction risks; and the ability to track design progression and instantly monitor the impact of changes. Through the use of custom coding the BIM model also enables automatic reporting and equipment scheduling, making for a much more efficient workflow process, greater cost and time certainty and better quality outcomes.

Oliver and Matt described how they applied this optimized workflow process in the creation of a new data hall from former office space within a 30 year-old site, one of two projects we are currently undertaking for a well-known bank. The project involved the creation of a fully coordinated 3D Revit model, which integrates all the third-party information and includes newly developed automatic processes such as the production of BMS (Building Management Services) points, builders’ work holes and auto scheduling equipment. “While people are familiar with the BIM 3D model it is the opportunity for optimized and automated work flows inside this we see as the future for design,” Oliver concluded. “It’s a work in progress that will evolve with every project.”

California Independent Systems Operator Iron Point Headquarters

A Cooling Model to Save Hundreds of Thousands of Pounds

Our second presentation, also by Oliver Titley, was about optimizing the environment for data centres and a control strategy we have developed for fresh air cooled data centres. “While current best practice is to run data centres with a hot environment to maximize the hours on free cooling, the detrimental effects on the IT equipment are often ignored,” Oliver explained. 

“Data centres run constantly and while different cooling methodologies exist, each with their own merits, in all cases the total systems’ energy use is influenced by the weather outside relative to the internal conditions. Designers chasing facility energy efficiency metrics have increased the internal temperatures to the detriment of IT which suffers from increased noise, failure rates, fan power and ultimately energy draw of the servers in the data centres. To fully understand the total impacts, we have developed a model to demonstrate the benefits of changing the internal temperature and relative humidity points, depending on the ambient outdoor temperature, thus reducing total combined electrical demand for cooling and IT. Our control strategy was optimized in a simulation to test both its robustness and analyze the yearly energy usage. Then we used this custom proprietary simulation software to test alternative control strategies for different solutions in different parts of the world to demonstrate how one size does not fit all, and the benefits are enormous. We have discovered that literally hundreds of thousands of pounds-worth of savings per year per mega-Watt are achievable using our model.”