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What Architectural Assets Can Speed Up a Tenant Fit-Out?

Aug 9, 2018
by Josh Anderson

TORONTO, ONTARIO – Tenants’ needs and expectations can change wildly from location to location or from vertical to vertical. So it’s always useful to pause and take a look at the day in the life of a major data center provider. At CapRE’s Canadian Data Center Summit in Toronto this spring, Founder and CEO of CapRE Brian Klebash did just that while moderating the panel Best Practices For Planning And Managing Tenant Fit-Outs In Wholesale And Colocation Data Centers, seeking the expertise of Chris Coleman, Vice President – Enterprise Sector, Digital Realty and Jeff Balsdon, Senior Director of Data Center Operations at Rogers. Below is a transcription of a snippet of that conversation.

data center summitKlebash: Would you say that a particular building physical architecture contributes to the speed and cost of a fit out? For example, a structural ceiling or raised floors? What are those advantages with regards to the speed of a tenant fit out?

Coleman: Well earlier, I mentioned a 415-volt build out, which can definitely save some money and save some time. Raised floors, we use them in a lot of our facilities. I don’t know if it helps on a speed perspective. Because if you do your electrical installation under the floor, then there is going to be someone crawling along the floor at some point to switch things up. So we’re seeing a lot of overhead busway-type of systems for electrical distribution. Certainly the ceilings that can handle structured cabling solutions have pretty much become a standard across our portfolio. Those are probably the main things from an architectural standpoint.

Klebash: Jeff, did you want to answer that?

Balsdon: From a building perspective, there is a lot of, I’ll say, design decisions or criteria that you can look at with your building. I think somebody on the last panel said, gone are the days of the high-rise data centers – or really, data centers in high-rise buildings.  But the fact is that they’re still around. And I think that if you look at those from a tenant or design perspective, the evaporative cooling, and with other types of cooling, you probably don’t have a lot of options. You’ve got to look at things like chilled water and what’s already available in the building.

If you’re going to purchase new land or a new building, where they’ve got lots of new land around the building, with lots of free space, you might look at the evaporative solutions, because you’ve got all kinds of room outside of the building where you can put all of these various units. If it’s a one or two story building, you can put them on the roof. In terms of your DX units and so on and so forth, and probably everywhere in between, your building envelope certainly does have some considerations when you’re doing the design of the entire building itself.

As for raised floor vs concrete slab, there is always a great debate around what’s better. There are pros and cons for both, sure. I think that from a concrete or raised floor perspective, it’s probably a bit cheaper on the initial build-out. You don’t have to put all of that floor and what not in place, you put everything over-head. If you get into a situation where you’ve got shared space or what not, there’s security pieces that you need to take into consideration. Everyone in the entire room has probably got access to all of the overhead cabling. It’s difficult to close that inward.

You put your cabling and all of that back underneath the raised floor, you can lock down your raised floor, fold it down, put sensors underneath, and there are also some benefits for airflow with a raised floor as well.

If you think about that design, and you design a room for 5 kilowatts per cabinet, it never works out that way. Some are 10, some are 2, some are 12. There are some other things you can do with a raised floor that are a little more tricky, that you have to do with some curtains and close out cold-aisle containment or hot-aisle containment, so raised floor does give you a bit more flexibility, even though it will cost you more up-front.

For more from Coleman, Balsdon, and their co-panelists, check out previous CapRE Insider Reports:

Banner Photo (L-R): Chris Coleman, Vice President – Enterprise Sector, Digital Realty and Jeff Balsdon, Senior Director of Data Center Operations, Rogers

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