We live in a technology dependent society. Nearly everything we do — from our daily commutes to our vacation plans to banking and even the weekend weather forecast — involve us picking up a mobile device and searching for information. 

That process, while ubiquitous and mundane, is supported by an infrastructure of data centers, fiber optics, and power sources that are intertwined and working seamlessly. At the same time they are being asked to do more and more to keep up with evolving technology.

What was once the sole domain of the CIO has now shifted to become concerns for the CFO  as well. With crystal balls in short supply, the executive team is forced to guard against stranded capacity (read: stranded capital) and to challenge the traditional approach to planning, designing, and building facilities. With many facilities in danger of becoming legacy before they are even half utilized, the designers and builders are challenged to be as fast paced, flexible, modern, and incredibly collaborative as possible. 

By some estimates, the Internet of Things (IoT) industry is a $14 trillion juggernaut. Technology is growing at an incredible pace being driven by mobility, convenience, and reliance for both personal and business use. Predictions are that by the end of 2016, five billion devices will be connected to the internet, with 20 billion more by the end of 2020. That is three devices for every person on the planet, powering information sharing, e-commerce and more. 

Adding to this complexity is the unknown. Just as the mobile device in your hand today has more power than the NASA super computer that sent men to the moon in 1969, so too will the devices of the future that control mobile banking, ride sharing and hotel and airline bookings develop in unknown ways. Yet in the midst of this change, the constant will be the infrastructure that powers those advancements — the data centers, the fiber, and the power sources — that will continue to allow us to be truly untethered by physical connections.  

To make these advancements possible is to plan for their arrival before we even know what they will look like.

What CIOs crave is agility — the ability to scale up or down as business demands require. So building what you need, when you need it, and in smaller increments, has become the guiding principle. Data halls can be tied to infrastructure that can now be kept outside the facility. Prefabrication helps with speed to market and can be a benefit later when upgrading down the road.

A data center with a 15- to 20-year lifecycle can now be extended out to 40 years, especially if it has a good location, power, and fiber access. The building itself should have the capability to have upgraded technology inserted into it multiple times — by building in flexibility we can account for future, currently unknown changes in technology that is happening every 18 months or less. 

To achieve this, it is critical to have collaboration in our DNA, with an “integrated delivery team” up front during conceptual design. The team needs to consist of designers, builders, and the owner stake holders. Early engagement with equipment vendors and subs is part of the evaluation process during conceptual. Using modern methods of construction prefabricating electrical and mechanical systems is an important factor in bringing systems to market faster and as needed while also allowing for flexibility down the road.