The location of the Novva data center outside of Salt Lake City offers many benefits. Some of these include outstanding connectivity, low power costs, and a central-western site with easy access to a major international airport. Disaster risk is low there too, since the area is not prone to earthquakes, floods, or other adverse weather events. And, the site’s climate and altitude (5,000 feet) allow for many hours of free cooling annually.
But, Novva data center offers more than just a location. Inside is a cooling system that features Aquatherm PP-RCT piping, which will provide virtually leak-free service for decades to come. Because it will never scale or corrode, the cooling water flow will remain unchanged throughout the anticipated 50-year life span of the pipe.
All of this data adds up to a win for Novva and its clients.
The hyperscale data center in Salt Lake City will be Novva’s flagship data center. The 100-acre Utah campus is planned to ultimately include more than 1.5 million square feet of data center space and will accommodate 250-kW to 30-MW clients. Construction is taking place in four phases. The first phase, which includes a 300,000-square-foot data center, a 120-MW substation and an 80,000-square-foot headquarters office building for Novva, was completed in December 2021.
BEATING THE HEAT
Reliable cooling systems are an essential component of modern data centers. Computer servers are notorious for generating heat — and heat is the nemesis of computer servers.
The decision to install Aquatherm pipe as part of the new data center’s cooling system was driven by Steven Boyce, vice president of infrastructure and design at Novva Data Centers. Boyce has been involved in the IT and data center space for more than 20 years and has worked on multiple successful startups during that time.
“When I first learned about Aquatherm, it was a no-brainer,” Boyce said. “I had been using steel pipes in my builds, which would corrode and rust, and, in turn, fill my equipment with sediment and pieces of rust. Efficiencies would be diminished, and the pipes would eventually have to be replaced. Aquatherm’s total installed costs are lower, and their warranty is something that no steel vendor could match.”
Once the decision was made to trust the cooling system’s performance to Aquatherm pipe, Novva turned to the Salt Lake City branch of Harris Mechanical for the installation.
To handle the first phase of the Novva system, Harris installed a BASX custom chiller package (which included the pumps and controls), the Aquatherm pipe for computer system cooling, and the comfort system piping and plumbing. The piping work for Phase 1 began in mid-May 2021 and was completed in October of that year. The system was commissioned and turned over to the owner two months later.
FAST AND FURIOUS
Jeff Reading, operations manager, construction, Harris Mechanical, said the Novva data center started out as a core-and-shell project, with the office built first and the data hall scheduled later. However, as anyone in construction work knows, it’s always best to expect the unexpected.
“We finished the core and shell construction in May 2021, and the data hall was right on its heels as a change order to the original project,” Reading said. “So it came at us fast and furious. The original plan was to complete the entire chilled-water loop, which runs underneath the floor on both sides of the building. However, it was decided to install the piping in stages as the facility is built out. So far we have installed about half of the piping that will ultimately go in there.”
So far, 4,418 feet of Aquatherm Blue Pipe SDR 17.6 have been installed.
To handle such a large project. Harris Mechanical sent several installers to Aquatherm’s U.S. headquarters in Lindon, Utah, for training.
After the training, Harris completed the installation using McElroy fusion tools and a combination of socket fusion for the 4-inch pipe and butt fusion for the 10-inch pipe.
“It was a smooth process,” Reading said. “We definitely gained experience and confidence with the pipe throughout the project, and our installers became accustomed to ‘leapfrogging’ and working with more than one [fusion] machine at a time.”
The system runs at a low pressure (35 to 45 psi) with supply water temperatures of 55°F and return temperatures at about 60°.
BIM and SCAN-TO-FAB PAVE A SMOOTH PATH
The underfloor piping system presented one of the major installation challenges at this project. The floor is raised 5 feet, and all of the facility’s piping, wiring, HVAC ducting, and utilities run through the raised space.
Aquatherm’s building information modeling (BIM) capabilities and Scan-to-Fab service helped ensure the installation went smoothly by preventing underfloor conflicts and collisions.
“Using 3D BIM and Revit really helped with coordinating this installation,” said Autumn Turner, a fabrication drafter at Aquatherm. “Not only was all the HVAC and plumbing under the floor, there were floor stands every square foot. It took a lot of coordination to avoid all those potential obstacles.”
Turner noted that careful coordination enhanced the already fast heat-fusion installation of Aquatherm pipe and that less time and money spent on welders is a major benefit.
“Aquatherm is just easier to work with than steel pipe,” she said. “It takes a lot less time to weld, and, when you add in the BIM support and drafting, it was easier for the installers to get situated into the floor and navigate the space.”
Rhett Coles, Aquatherm’s fabrication drafting/Scan-to-Fab manager, said Aquatherm’s Scan-to-Fab service and in-house fabrication makes any piping installation easier and smoother. Spools can be custom made in any size or configuration and shipped to the job site ready to install.
“In the case of the Novva data center, we were in constant communication with Steven Boyce and the owner’s group,” Coles said. “We were not providing a cookie-cutter system to them. They would tell us whatever they wanted or needed, and we would work directly with them to help them fully accomplish their goals.”