IDC Architects has produced a white paper created to help data center owners understand the unique challenges of locating data centers in high rise buildings. IDC Architects is part of CH2M HILL, a global full service consulting, design, construction, and operations firm.

The new white paper, titled, “High Rise Building Data Center Design Considerations,” is the first compilation of guidelines of its kind in the industry. It offers guidelines and recommendations for owners to use in planning high rise data center projects in three basic facility sizes; small, medium and large.

The overview criteria used provide a starting point for the building selection process. Once a building is selected, the white paper can also be used to help develop a more detailed concept design and estimate of construction costs.

The white paper presents cost-saving scenarios involving floor space requirements and configurations in each of the three size categories for “white space” (the amount of clear floor area needed for server cabinets), cooling units, electrical distribution, ceiling height, floor load capacity, egress pathways, and exterior space for condensers, chillers and/or cooling towers.

The document also reviews mechanical, electrical, and IT requirements in each of those facility size ranges. These include requirements for electrical power to support IT equipment, uninterruptible power systems, fire protection sprinklers, piping, cooling air flow, noise and exhaust impacts from generators, chillers and cooling towers as well as volumetric and weight considerations for thermal and make-up water storage.

Development of this tool was instigated by IDC Architects’ recent experience with a client who was looking for suitable data center locations in high rise buildings. The client asked for help in determining what criteria should be used to identify the best buildings to consider for this purpose.

IDC Architects noticed that other data center clients were requesting similar guidance on vertical building configurations, indicating a trend in the making. As a result this topic became the focus of a July 2011 presentation IDC Architects was invited to make at the DC Strategics data center technical conference in Singapore.

Some of the suggestions offered in the white paper are basic but vital, such as making sure floors are designed with enough structural strength to handle the weight of densely packed servers in high-density data centers. Other recommendations are more complex, such as fine-tuning passive air cooling approaches to dramatically reduce energy consumption.

Whether simple or complex, all of the guidelines offered by this white paper are intended to help data center owners squeeze more value out of their buildings in an increasingly space-constrained world.

The white paper draws heavily from knowledge gained during IDC Architects’ design of dozens of data centers internationally in both existing and new buildings, as well as the 40 years of high rise building design experience gained by the white paper’s author Bob Kirkendall.