In my last column, “Market Insanity,” I wrote about some of the challenges the industry is undergoing in the hyperscale space. Challenges include shortage of resources in both design/construction as well as in the operations sector.
With the exciting opportunities that seem to blossom every day, one of the latest sprints is speed-to-market in APAC (Asia-Pacific). This creates challenges on multiple levels.
Develop the APAC prototype
If you plan to build in Japan, Singapore, or China, you had better plan to go to vertical. Land cost is extremely high ($20M US + per hector), and a well-thought-out multi-story data center prototype is the preferred method of construction. The prototype will also need to be aesthetically pleasing to get through the local authorities while meeting a variety of local codes.
The building layout should also consider the lowest amount of conduit runs and be laid out in a functional manner. The renderings enclosed layout a typical floor plan including generators, transformers, electrical equipment, and floor layouts. Typically, on a one-hector site, you can fit 5,000-sq-meter floorplates equaling 2,500 sq meters of computer hardware.
Design philosophy for APAC
While direct-evaporative mechanical systems are preferred within the hyperscale industry, this cannot be achieved in a vertical prototype. In most cases, a large centrical mechanical system is preferred due to limited roof space.
In theory, the preferred mechanical design would be N+1 on an individual floor basis. However, the sizing of numerous chiller plants per floor will also not comply due to quantity. Therefore, increasing the chiller sizes (900 to 1,000 ton) will reduce the equipment on the roof, making it mechanically achievable. Electrically, the design can be achieved in both a catcher-block design as well as a distributed redundant design. Generators should be designed in 3MW units in an N+1 block configuration. Fuel tanks will need to be buried under the building. When this is the case, be aware of low water tables.
When entering a new market, there are numerous challenges in both the construction process as well as in community awareness. Mitigating risks include the basic four elements:
License to operate: Pre-campus development including tax incentives, campus renderings, permitting process, energy consumption, noise constraints, and community awareness.
Risk assessments: These include delay of construction, community communication/promotional aspects, and managing public feedback.
Operations workforce: Impact to economics for both construction jobs and ongoing operations workforce.
Livability: Community contributions programs to better society by the owners and the development
Design bridging process fro projects overseas
One of the biggest challenges for hyperscale clients is to identify qualified architects, engineers, and contractors who are experienced in data center development. In regions like South America and APAC, several hyper-scalers use developers to build their data centers since they are seasoned in construction constraints and pitfalls of building. This is where design bridging comes into play.
A majority of hyperscale companies want to utilize American standards and products. However, some areas differ in their approach based upon regional equipment suppliers. For example, within the Netherlands, they prefer the UPS be coupled to the generator (hydro-generator approach). Using a design bridging approach allows the hyperscale client to develop the basis of design (BOD) schematic design, and design development documents and hand them off to the local APAC contractor. From that point, the contractor uses a design/build approach to complete the project. This approach is very popular in several areas of the world.
There are several speed bumps in building in the APAC region. Tariffs can impact the construction schedule, leaving UPS systems at the port dock. Construction schedules always seem to get delayed due to several reasons. We can’t expect to use our American approach in foreign countries without adapting to their business environment.