The BIM Opportunity for Data Center Design

Article by IIMBE’s Director of Digital Delivery, David Foley.

As the need for cloud computing services continues to grow, data centers are set to become one of the fastest growing sectors of the IT market. Investment in data center systems in Australia is expected to increase in 2022.

According to JLL, Australia is the fastest growing data center market in the region; the space under development will nearly double to 417,000 square meters over the next three years.

As this investment continues to grow and data centers are needed to support increasingly critical services for security-conscious customers in government, infrastructure and healthcare, it will be essential that the design, construction and management of data centers are supported by software that monitors and supports their ongoing operation while increasing the utilization of the physical asset.

From a construction perspective, data centers are one of the most complex building types and stand to gain from the adoption of Building Information Modeling (BIM). BIM is a digital representation of the physical and functional characteristics of an installation.

Compared to a typical office building, data centers have 30 times the mechanical and electrical capacity. Using BIM ensures that these complex projects are delivered efficiently and supported effectively.

The design phase

Data center engineers and architects will benefit from better communication and a single source of truth during the planning phase. However, where BIM comes into its own in data center design is the ability to visualize and model the critical utilities that will make or break the facility.

Beyond other buildings, data centers have significantly higher power requirements for the server banks inside. Additionally, due to the density of computer hardware, higher levels of heat dissipation and airflow are essential for devices to function properly.

BIM can not only integrate routing and access to critical utilities for maintenance and potential replacement, but it can also reduce future risk and ensure the data center meets required security standards.

Additionally, with security becoming an increasingly critical need in data centers, designers using BIM can build redundancies into building design to ensure continuous operation.

The supply phase

Towards the procurement phase of the project, data centers have a unique advantage when it comes to BIM, as much of the structure can be built from prefabricated elements.

Additionally, the serialized nature of the center’s components allows for simple data entry during construction so that BIM outputs can transition to a digital twin of the facility once it becomes operational.

With the current global supply chain disruptions, sourcing data center equipment and materials may face even more challenges. Much of the critical equipment required for data centers is in high demand and requires months of lead time.

BIM can be used to connect the supply chain to projects, manage delay risks and gain better visibility into the procurement process. Using software to gather and understand this data ensures that the right equipment is available at the right time.

By collecting data (such as model numbers, serial numbers, plans, and documentation) at the procurement stage (rather than the build stage), data center managers can also be confident that they have accurate information relevant to managing their assets in the future.

Taking these steps before the building is operational ensures that future maintenance can be targeted and effective. In addition, the constituent elements of the structure are visible in relation to each other, which allows outsourcing to avoid any collision between equipment and infrastructure.

The life of the data center

Finally, as many data centers are built to satisfy an initial capacity with the potential for expansion, a digital model of the facility ensures that these modular additions to the structure as needs grow can be incorporated into the existing design. of the Center.

The use of BIM in the design, construction and maintenance of data centers ensures greater reliability and predictability, essential for the critical infrastructure of our digital world.

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