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Articles | July 31, 2023

Engineering in DC: Life Cycle Post Construction

Engineering has a major role not only in constructing a new data center, but also in the post-construction life cycle of a data center facility.

The Feeder | Q2 2023 Newsletter
Century Plaza Los Angeles photo

By Clint Summers, P.E., Senior Director, Power Engineering and Joe Dietrich, P.E., Director of Analytics

Many are familiar with the role Engineering has in designing and constructing a new data center in our day-to-day work as design builders. But how many know the role Engineering plays in the post-construction life cycle of a data center facility?

In the chronology of a data center facility, tenant fit-outs are one of the first requests for engineering support after a facility is built. Many of the data centers Rosendin builds are colocation facilities or “colos.” These data centers lease out space to a tenant and provide power cooling and IT connectivity for other businesses to utilize by housing servers and other digital computing equipment.

Part of the process of getting data centers up and running in a way where the owner is generating profits is the tenant fit-out process. Engineering works closely with both the data center owner and the tenant during this process, and together, the team customizes the leased space to provide maximum function and efficiency for the tenant.

Some of the functions engineering plays in the fit-out process include power distribution layouts for STSs, PDUs, and RPPs, creating striping plans, coordinating with overhead or underfloor utilities, designing cable tray solutions for power and/or IT distribution, coordinating with hot/cold aisle containment, lighting design, power distribution busway design, modifications to the base building short circuit/coordination/arc flash studies, grounding distribution designs, and more.

Once the data center has been fit-out for its tenant or tenants, the process of day-to-day operations begins. Rosendin Engineering has a team of engineers called Field Engineering Leads (FELs) specializing in this type of work.

FELs are utilized both during the final stages of initial facility construction for First Time Energizations (FTEs) as well as during special owner operations exercises (long after initial facility energization) to create Step-By-Step (SBS) procedures.

This service provides the operations teams with the appropriate processes of switching, testing, observations, data gathering, modifications, etc., to complete specialized work. This documented process is often called a Method of Procedure (MOP).

Also, around the five-year mark, battery replacements become quite commonplace. For many years, Rosendin installed almost exclusively VRLA-type batteries in data center projects. These batteries typically have a lifetime of four to seven years; as such, we expect that Rosendin will be doing replacements of these batteries for years to come.

Many owners are switching from VRLA to lithium-ion and other battery technology types with better reliability and longer lifespans.
Rosendin Engineering has the expertise and experience to analyze the requirements of NFPA 855 and other applicable standards, such as the International Fire Code (IFC), to determine what modifications, if any, a facility must undergo to house different battery technologies.

As the critical systems in a data center age further (5-to-10-year time frame), it becomes more prudent to ensure that regular load tests are performed to demonstrate that critical equipment such as UPSs and generators will function as expected under a heavy load.

It is often only possible to show this using a load bank that may or may not have been part of the facility’s original design. Rosendin Engineering can help create testing plans, including step-by-step instructions, load bank connection details, pass/fail criteria, and planning support needed to conduct these vital tests confidently.

Other aging systems must be replaced to regain reliability or owner confidence in these systems. Some mechanically based mission-critical power system components, such as DRUPS (Diesel Rotary Uninterruptible Power Supplies), have historically had a life expectancy that has proven to be shorter than the facility’s life.

Many owners of facilities employing DRUPS units have decided to undergo projects to upgrade their DRUPS units or replace them with other backup system technologies.

In these projects, it is essential to have the support of knowledgeable electrical power engineers to properly identify and model the system’s key features and analyze whether the replacement solution will change any of the characteristics of that system.

Your engineering team should consider key parameters such as backup time, reliability, maintainability, fault-clearing capabilities, motor starting capabilities, and others. Rosendin’s Engineering team, specifically power and analytics engineers, have advanced knowledge and understanding of these systems.

Data center infrastructure becomes obsolete beyond ten years (10-to-20-year time frame). Power densities increase, technology requires refreshing, and equipment begins to wear out or is not serviceable due to the obsolescence of the necessary replacement parts. At this point in a facility’s life cycle, owners often seek engineering help to study and analyze how to modernize the facility without scrapping all of the initially installed expensive infrastructure.

Engineers are called upon to devise methods of increasing total power to the IT loads, deploying new tech, upgrading EPMS/SCADA/Automation/Controls for the facility, and making informed decisions regarding the replacements of generators, UPSs, static switches, and distribution equipment.

For all your data center engineering needs, please contact Rosendin Engineering via your local engineering director or the Engineering Helpdesk at 833.REI.ENGR. We are here to help!

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About Rosendin

Headquartered in San Jose, Calif., Rosendin is employee-owned and one of the largest electrical contractors in the United States, employing over 7,500 people, with revenues averaging $2 billion. Established in 1919, Rosendin remains proud of our more than 100 years of building quality electrical and communications installations and value for our clients but, most importantly, for building people within our company and our communities. Our customers lead some of the most complex construction projects in history and rely on us for our knowledge, our ability to scale, and our dedication to quality. At Rosendin, we work to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to reach their full potential by building a culture that is diverse, safe, welcoming, and inclusive.

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