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The Role of Civil Engineers in Data Center Design

Jul 26, 2021

From massive multi-building facilities housing tech giants’ servers to more contained single structure sites, today’s data centers must accommodate massive power demand, high heat loads, and strict security protocols. When you hear about data centers, seldom do you think of the role of civil engineering in accommodating these needs. The word “data center” tends to bring electrical, mechanical or computer engineers to mind. But did you know that civil engineers play a big role in several areas of data center design?

Site selection and infrastructure demands are one of the first considerations in designing a data center. Whether it’s a new construction or retrofitting an existing space, site selection should be informed by the requirement of redundancy in all facets mentioned above.  The infrastructure needs of running a data center are enormous.  Appropriate access points for security needs and inventory turnover as well as proximity to utility lines and power grids are critical for the power resource. Securing electricity sources to power these centers and their redundancy systems is paramount to ensuring they won’t go down should something unforeseen happen. This means that these centers tend to be located near large power grids–in Tennessee specifically you’ll see them near TVA right-of-way lines. The water components needed to aid in cooling during peak seasons requires a higher demand to be considered which may require multiple point resources as well.  Fortunately, there can be optional designs used for storing the discharge water usage prior to taxing the municipalities sewage system. 

Sustainable and smart designs are important when thinking about infrastructure needs because data centers experience growth, and with that growth comes increased needs for expansion of buildings and infrastructure.  Because of the security needs in this world’s environment and the requirement for future growth we are seeing these centers now be employed outside the urban core area and focusing on industrial opportunities. 

Caleb Thorne

Vice President

Nashville