Neil Lakomiak Discusses UL+ESD Partnership: Helping the Industry Grow by Raising the Bar

LEESBURG, VA — In 2017, UL announced a partnership with Environmental Systems Design Consulting (ESD) to develop a new data center certification program with the aim of providing end-user transparency, provider accountability and proper data center documentation to mitigate operational risk based on UL’s 3223 standard, which will serve as the basis of this program. At CapRE’s Leesburg Data Center Summit earlier in September, we welcomed Neil Lakomiak, Business Development Director for Building & Life Safety Technologies at UL to provide some insight into this exciting partnership during a discussion moderated by David Lambiaso, Senior Associate at Environmental Systems Design.

data center summit“So how did we get started? There’s an interesting story about our two companies,” Lakomiak began. “Our executives know each other. There’s a personal relationship between our executives. A couple of years ago, there was just a question about, why aren’t we working together? Because we keep crossing each other’s paths out in the field and the industry. So we eventually got together and brainstormed how we could work together, and where our two companies were complementary.”

According to Lakomiak, data centers naturally rose to the surface of conversations as an area where they could collaborate together, go to market, and achieve a positive impact on the industry. “So we settled on data centers and identified, what are some of the needs or gaps in the industry that we feel we could address?” he recalled.

“And that was the genesis of the program. We decided to develop a standard which was designed to be very comprehensive and address some of the pain points or gaps that were in the industry. We’ll go into a little more detail about that, but we are a partnership and we’ll do it together. We operate around our strengths. UL is pretty strong in fire and life safety and security and those aspects of evaluation,” continued Lakomiak.

Neil Lakomiak, Business Development Director for Building & Life Safety Technologies, UL

Next, Lakomiak zoomed into the meat of the matter. “So we know there are still challenges with data centers and they’ve become more and more resilient over the years but the last thing that you want is for a facility to become inferior or to become unavailable just because of the costs involved,” he shared. “And technology plays a role in that, we know that. And people and processes play an equally important role to ensure availability in a data center. So our relationship with ESD was intended to address the technical aspects of the data center, basically all of the facilities, all of the equipment in the data center, and not necessarily at this time the people and the processes.”

“So what we are trying to do is raise the bar and we thought that by teaming up together we could help add value to the industry and make data centers a little more resilient,” he intimated. “That’s the moniker that we’re focused on. Our interest is in helping the industry grow, helping consumers of data centers grow with the ability to make better choices with things like potentially moving to the Cloud and giving them the ability to compare different data center products.”

When the partnership launched last year, the scope of it was intended to include colo, hyperscale, and enterprise, he said. “But it’s comprehensive in that we’re looking at the electrical, mechanical, telecom, conditioning, fire and life safety, and security aspects of the data center all in one,” he clarified.

And to be clear, it comes down to risk mitigation. “From the idea of an insurer’s point of view, one of the value propositions that we have around this program is that we believe there is a case to be made with an insurance carrier that if you can meet the requirements of the UL3223 standard, that you’re less of a risk to an insurer and therefore you may have the opportunity to negotiate lower premiums with an insurance company,” concluded Lakomiak. “So that’s something that we want to do with data centers as well – position them for the opportunity to work with their insurance carriers to potentially negotiate some new rates.”


Neil Lakomiak, Business Development Director for Building & Life Safety Technologies at UL, provides thought leadership at CapRE’s Leesburg Data Center Summit