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You are here : Home / Architecture Projects > Datacentre expertise > Construction of modular datacentres in architectural terms

Construction of modular datacentres in architectural terms

Construction of Modular Datacentres

What are the architectural solutions in building a modular datacentre?

As our use of computers and "cloud" computing services expands, so the need for building datacentres becomes increasingly important. Access to new Information and Communications Technology (ICT) is crucial for regional, national and global development.

Projects are continually emerging that seek more economical solutions with upgradeable technology and this evolution has lead us to consider the construction of modular datacentres. But how do you design an effective datacentre project in terms of the best architectural solutions?     
Modular datacentreScheme for modular datacentres on the outskirts of Reims

Datacentre - modular or mobile?

A modular datacentre unit can also be designed to be mobile. Recent research and development has highlighted the various advantages associated with using standard transportation containers for modular datacentres.

One solution is to develop a complete module within a single container, consisting of a data storage room, its own air conditioning system, the UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply) and the transformer. Another solution is to install the various technical elements in different containers i.e. one container for the generator, another for the air conditioning system, etc. Each container is then connected to a main building that contains only the data storage rooms.    

Server equipment and modular technical solutions

Modular datacentre - technical componentsWorking model showing "hot aisle-cold aisle" cooling
Specialised companies are increasingly offering modular systems for power supply and cooling, which can then be connected to a traditional building that hosts the servers. These technical elements are standardised, prefabricated, pre-tested and easy to install, thereby making the datacentre operational in a very short period of time.

A variety of solutions can be proposed to address each of the complex technical issues. For example, with regards to the cooling system, there are different modules available: cooling solutions based on a system of circulating iced water or combining the same principle of iced water but also with the use of natural ventilation (using the surrounding outside air).                    

Effective solutions in terms of the architectural design

To make the best choices in terms of the architecture of datacentre construction, it is necessary to understand the objectives of the project and identify the most effective systems to meet their requirements. These may often need to be flexible. Certain architectural solutions for the server rooms may satisfy some clients' needs but may not be suitable for others. For example, the need for a greater flexibility is not necessarily compatible with the 'cold aisle - hot aisle' concept for cooling. Similarly the use of natural ventilation as the only cooling method will always eventually reach its limit.

Modular datacentres in their environment

For modular or mobile datacentres to operate effectively, they invariably need to be adapted to the specific local requirements of the site. Key factors in assessing and selecting a suitable site are the available power supply and the existing telecommunications network.

In France, the local planning regulations (Plan Local d'Urbanisme) or regional ICPE regulations (Installations Classées pour la Protection de l'Environnement) affect how the datacentre will be developed. For example, there may not be sufficient space to install the plant equipment around the building and if placing these technical components on the roof, further study in respect to both the visibility and acoustics is required. The feasibility phase is essential in order to also assess the environmental factors and the permit applications for operating such a development, which are studied in parallel with the client's requirements for security and efficiency.    

Modular datacentres: Reid Brewin Architects' experience

In recent years Reid Brewin Architects practice has worked on numerous modular datacentre projects. As part of a proposal for a large datacentre in the eastern suburbs of Paris, our design team chose to position the server spaces at the centre of the site with the technical units placed around them. By arranging the individual modules in this way, they are easily able to be maintained, upgraded or replaced if necessary. 

For a smaller datacentre project, we studied the benefits of using the principle of "cold aisle - hot aisle" with a natural open air cooling system; and in another project, the developer wished to begin with a small building of approximately 500m² of data storage space. We developed an architectural solution that found the best balance between the number of units for the project, including the redundancy service units (a duplication of units in case of component failure), without losing the technical and cost effectiveness that is obtained with a larger space.      
Modular datacentre constructionPhasing in a modular datacentre project
Reid Brewin Architects is one of the leading architectural practices in France recognised for its experience in the design and construction of data centres, including modular data centres.
The firm has worked on many projects throughout Europe and the Middle East, notably in France for Global Switch, Equinix, Digital Realty, Telecity, Sodearif and Bouygues Energy Services.

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