The introduction of a ceiling suspension system designed specifically for use in data centers is helping XSite Modular to not only reduce construction costs for its clients, but also operational costs by providing them with the flexibility to easily reconfigure equipment after the building is in operation.

Based in Branchburg, NJ, XSite is a leading design-build firm of modular data centers and the cable landing stations used by the sub-marine cable industry. Its turnkey approach to cable landing stations, which are similar to data centers, includes fabrication of the modular buildings off-site in the U.S. in a controlled factory environment, shipment to their eventual site, and installation and re-assembly at the project location.

According to XSite CEO, Amy Marks, the benefits to modular cable landing stations are many. “The steel and concrete buildings can be designed and fabricated while clients are still developing the site,” she says. “This drastically reduces their schedule.

“In addition, compared to overseas locations where skilled labor and quality materials are not always available, the building is built in a controlled environment in the U.S. by experienced labor,” she adds. “In short, the building goes from design to fabrication to operation rather quickly.”

‘Intelligent materials’ reduce cost to client

To help ensure that process, Marks notes the firm is always looking for ways to reduce costs to the client by reducing construction costs both at the manufacturing plant and the eventual destination. One way she says that is accomplished is by introducing “intelligent materials” into the mix.

“When we look at new materials, we want materials that reduce installation time at the plant and re-assembly time at the site,” she says. “Anything that can reduce a multi-step process in the factory and at the site will lower costs for the client.”

Mike Hathaway, COO for XSite, agrees, stating, “When we look to introduce a new product, we look at its efficiency at every stage along the process. Is it easy to design, to install, to ship, and to re-assemble?”

Designed to meet mission critical needs

As part of a recent project that involved the construction of multiple cable landing station modules for placement in Brazil, XSite introduced a new “intelligent material” into its process: the Prelude® XL Max™ ceiling suspension system from Armstrong Ceiling Solutions. The system is designed specifically to meet data center needs for improved air flow management, maximum load carrying capacity, and adaptability.

Able to support single point loads up to 300 pounds, the 15/16 in. suspension system uses 3/8 in. threaded rod connections and integrated hanging clips to provide flexible and reconfigurable support for overhead cable trays, bus bars, hot aisle containment, and other data center components anywhere along the suspension system face without the need for a separate strut channel system.

The patented load connector hanging clips attach to the face of the suspension system, eliminating threaded rod penetrations through the ceiling plane. This minimizes unwanted air infiltration and improves access and aesthetics.

Easily installed anywhere along the suspension system face, the load connector clips also provide flexibility to place cable trays anywhere within a space and reconfigure them to adapt to changes in floor plans or server configurations.

Move cable trays without penetrating ceiling

Hathaway explains that the flexibility the suspension system provides is one reason it was introduced. “Technology is constantly changing,” he states. “As a result, clients continually have to move, change, or upgrade equipment. The ability to easily move cable trays along with the equipment without penetrating the ceiling is a huge benefit to the client.

“As requirements change, these buildings tend to grow in size and scale,” he continues. “Once again, the ability to reconfigure cable trays by simply disconnecting the load hanging clips and moving them along the grid face allows clients to accommodate future change without disrupting operation of the facility.”

The system’s load-bearing capability was another consideration. “Most cable distribution now occurs overhead above the equipment,” Hathaway says. “Consequently, as facilities get denser, more cabling in an area is needed, resulting in more load on the ceiling. In that regard, the load-bearing capability of Prelude XL Max grid is excellent. Considering the load that can be supported by the system, we were surprised with the flexibility it provides.”

Structural integrity was another performance factor that influenced the decision to introduce the suspension system. “Because of the need to relocate the building, every product we choose must be able to ship well,” Hathaway explains. “It must be able to withstand the seismic-type conditions of being transported from the factory to a truck or ship and then lifted into place.

“If we used a traditional ceiling suspension system, a great deal of reinforcement would be needed to stabilize the free-floating grid. A great deal of repair work would often be needed at the site as well,” he continues. “Because the Prelude XL Max system is a structural grid, there is usually very little damage to the grid whatsoever. We simply install it in the factory and ship it.”

Offers more benefits than raised floors

XSite CEO Marks notes that XSite had used hard ceilings in the past. However, because of current changes in cooling systems, more and more data centers and cable landing stations are now utilizing plenum systems for supply or return. “Raised access floors are a possibility,” she says, “but we have found it easier, cleaner, and less costly to include a ceiling plenum.”

Looking back on the introduction of the new ceiling suspension system to its cable landing stations, Marks adds, “We also consult on large scale data centers incorporating off-site elements such as power and cooling modules as well as on other markets such as health care and industrial , and the suspension system offers the same benefits in these applications as well. As a result, it should be well received.”