The demand for more datacentre capacity is exponential and therefore a continued growth industry opportunity for construction companies. Here are some of the common challenges in delivering datacentre projects successfully.
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The challenges of constructing data centres

Datacentres developments are typically fast track and highly complex. They feature many mechanical and electrical plants covering aspects of intensive electrical power supply requirements, resilience and cooling.

Once on-site, datacentre projects move fast. The key driving force is to maintain momentum. Projects typically take 12 -24 months to complete with a daily spend of half a million pounds being commonplace. Delays, mistakes or a combination of the two tend to cost a lot of money.

So, the key challenge for datacentre delivery is to create a balance between maintaining momentum and minimising mistakes on-site during delivery.

To achieve this, project teams and clients must set up your project rightly from the start.

What are the best systems, processes, structures and behaviours to set up so that your project runs on-site like clockwork? How can you have access to accurate real-time data so that you can make the right decisions quickly?  

We are usually brought into datacentre projects once they’re on-site and things are going wrong. Here are 3 negative aspects we commonly see in constructing datacentres:

1. A lack of real planning from the outset – Getting the basics right

Everyone thinks things are going fine until the M&E fit-out begins and by then it is very difficult to course correct.

You must have the right planning, the project set up, systems and processes in place correctly from the start.

If all of these areas have not been addressed correctly once you’re on-site, issues and problems will snowball quickly and their negative impacts amplified.

Problems tend to be left up until a critical point rather than being addressed from the start.

2. Fast build demands can trap project teams in a reactive cycle

The drive for speed can often come at the expense of other aspects of the project. This can easily overwhelm project teams, trapping them in a cycle of reactive management.

How to avoid it?

You can help to mitigate the impacts of the quickness by using real-time data and digitisation to your advantage. With real-time data and digitisation, you set your fast track project up the right way to succeed.

As datacentre projects move so fast, monthly updates are too slow. Problems can easily fester over the course of a month and soon escalate.

By using live information and real-time updates, clients and commercial directors have the latest information at their digital decision-making fingertips.

Just be aware that the quality of information that you get from real-time data depends on the quality of the information provided by the site team.

People on-site must know how to input and capture accurate data so that the information actually enables swift decision making. This needs to be easy for them to do and it also needs to help them do their jobs.

For this reason, it is important to look at things holistically to make sure human behaviour is not overlooked in such a way that the systems are not utilised. There must be clear processes and procedures in place including clear commissioning plans and effective change management.

3. Underestimating the scale of M&E management and commissioning

We all often underestimate the complexity of planning, installing and commissioning M&E installations.

Datacentre projects have complex M&E plants. It’s essential to know how to optimise sequencing and the impacts of particular decisions on other areas of the project when on-site.

What’s the solution?

The key here is to develop a data set that maps systems to locations.

Having a comprehensive understanding of which construction room ready milestones drive which system commissioning milestones allows the right areas to be prioritised for construction to achieve commissioning objectives, thus optimising delivery in such a way the months can be saved off the schedule.

It is a lot of work upfront but on projects where an excess of £500k a day is being spent the savings can be significant.

Check out our Data & Digital page to learn more about how we’re helping our Clients construct data centres.