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Value Engineering for Sustainable Data Centres

Value Engineering for Sustainable Data Centres

The growth of social networking, online shopping and banking, government services, and other technology based activities has led to a dramatic surge in data management requirements and a huge increase in the number of new data centres constructed worldwide.

Agreeing key design requirements, systems selection and construction methodologies at concept stage is vital to ensure the successful delivery of cost-effective, sustainable data centres for the future, argues PM Group’s Colm O'Mahony

Traditionally high energy users, a recent US report suggests that data centres are now the fastest-growing energy consumer group worldwide. With increased capacity requirements and with energy prices projected to continue to rise in the short term at least, one of the main challenges now facing all businesses is how best to maximise the energy efficiency of their data centre resources and, thereby, significantly drive down costs.

Future Proofed, Energy-Efficient Data Centres
“The key to building future-proofed, energy-efficient data centres is securing a full understanding and agreement of requirements from all parties at the outset and then incorporating these into the building design, systems selection and construction methodology from the concept stage onwards. For me, that is the true definition of value engineering and is absolutely vital as the ability to positively influence the outcome of any project without significantly impacting on costs diminishes as it progresses,” Colm explains.  “Data centres generally comprise up to 150 different systems, so changing even one of these at a late stage will have major cost implications.”

For example, one of PM Group’s projects, a 6,000 sq. m. 100MW facility in Ireland, has been recognised by the European Commission’s Sustainable Energy Europe Campaign as a best practice example of innovative environmental sustainability design and is 50% more energy efficient than comparable data centres built just three years ago. In addition to the almost exclusive use of free air cooling, boosted by Ireland’s low ambient air temperature (a key selling point in Ireland Inc.’s bid to attract related inward investment), the design also facilitates improved hardware utilisation, reduced water and electricity usage and lower waste material production.

Innovative systems to boost sustainability
“Data centre energy consumption is traditionally divided equally between server power and building cooling systems. However, industry studies indicate that up to 76% of facilities are actually overcooled and are, therefore, energy-inefficient, so the scope for major savings through the innovative use at concept phase of air, water and electricity resources to drive Power Utilisation Effectiveness (PUE), boost sustainability and reduce costs is significant,” Colm points out.

Other key design concept-stage considerations that can drive energy and cost efficiencies are the size and location of the site in question, the projected power output, the number of servers being housed and the level of reliability (Tier III, Tier IV etc.) required along with access security and performance management systems. “All of these issues must be assessed, costed and then incorporated into the initial design concept if the project is to be successful,” Colm says. “With data centre capacity requirements increasing all the time, the need to maximise energy efficiency to reduce costs is already high up the corporate agenda. Even a one percent annual reduction in energy usage in a 100MW plant will generate major savings.”

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Contact Colm O'Mahony
Sector Director, Data Centres and Mission Critical 

T: + 353 1 404 0700