Facebook Data Center, Henrico County, VA

christopher consultants has a proven track record of working closely with various data center/mission critical facility developers throughout the Northern Virginia region. We have taken numerous projects from the initial entitlement phases through final construction. Our data center experts identify project requirements and constraints, apply their considerable knowledge to the project and work with the development team to create an innovative design that is practical, realistic and constructible. We sat down with three of our experts (virtually, of course) and asked them a few key questions about the data center market.

What is the general outlook on data centers with the current COVID-19 pandemic taking place?

The outlook for data centers was healthy prior to our current situation, but now it’s even stronger. Industry experts expect more and more people to be working remotely at least part of the time post-pandemic, which is going to create the need for a more robust telecommunications network. Online retail growth has been steadily increasing for years, and will continue to do so, feeding the need for additional data centers.

Are there any trends you see most data center developers putting into place?

As land in prime data center locations becomes scarcer and more valuable, many developers are now looking at multistory facilities as the norm rather than the exception. This will create the need for even more vigorous infrastructure (power, fiber, water and sewer) in these locations. Localities that are intent on attracting data centers—and their tax revenue—will need to consider this in their Capital Improvement Plans and when planning locations for power lines and substations.

What property features make it ideal for a data center site?

                                                                              Innovation (under construction), Prince William County

When it comes to data centers, infrastructure is the leading factor in site location. With the quantity of data housed within these facilities, access to power transmission lines and a substation is essential, as well as connectivity to fiber optic lines. Some of the data center projects we have worked on in the past  use water cooling for the servers, which requires sufficient waterline infrastructure to support the cooling system. Some buildings utilize air cooling in lieu of water. It is up to the owner or specific needs of the project that determine which cooling method will be used.

Site access is another factor when it comes to selecting a location, as many facilities want two points of access from a roadway. And lastly, the general topography can be a constraint, as data centers are typically large slab on-grade buildings. Sites with excessive elevation changes can lead to additional costs associated with earthwork and retaining walls.

How is civil engineering involved in ensuring the best security measures are put into place?

The security measures at each data center vary from site to site and are based on the needs and requirements of the facility’s customers. Most, at a minimum, have perimeter fencing and/or gates to control access to the site. More secure sites may require blast zone building setbacks and structural fencing gates/pavement wedges or bollards designed to prevent vehicular intrusions. During the design phase, we take special consideration into any security features needed and integrate them into the overall data center site layout and utility designs.

Our experts are ready to get your data center projects started off on the right foot. Please reach out to Mike Kitchen at mikekitchen@ccl-eng.com or 703-334-5641 if you would like to discuss any projects that you are considering.

Subject Matter Expertise contributors

Mike Kitchen, PE (Vice President)
Jack Williams, PE (Principal)
Greg Drew, PE (Group Leader, Suburban Land)