Building Efficient Data Centers with Smart Design

Building Efficient Data Centers with Smart Design
An industry report by FABCON PRECAST


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The Drivers of Change

It seems like in the blink of an eye a new smart device is unveiled, whether it’s the new iPhone, Apple Watch, tablet or light-as-air laptop. Without a doubt, the world is increasingly connected and hungry for faster access to information. To support the data that fuels these devices, there’s an ever-growing need for storage.

“It isn’t about gigabytes of data, or even petabytes,” said GreenPages Technology Solutions CTO Chris Ward in a recent article published on “Now companies are talking in exabytes of capacity, which is 1 billion GBs.”

These needs create an environment of intense competition. According to a recent report by Emerson Power, The Four Trends Driving the Future of Data Center Infrastructure Design and Management, “the companies emerging as leaders will be the ones that are able to maintain or improve availability, while implementing technologies and services that reduce costs by improving design, management and operating efficiency.”

Rising to the Challenge

That means that new data centers not only need to provide enough space to house equipment, they need to help reduce energy consumption, cost less to build (and operate), and can get up and running quickly.

Another concern data center owners and operators have when planning new data centers, in addition to optimizing their current locations, is choosing the most efficient building materials. They need to be resistant to tornados, hurricanes and other natural disasters, as well as help reduce heat-load density, which is a growing concern, despite modern energy-saving equipment.

“We have a 6-month guarantee to our customers to have their data centers up and running, so I need to find a reliable, efficient solution, that is strong enough to meet our rigorous safety standards.  Fabcon’s precast walls provide that for us,” said Chris Crosby, CEO of Compass Data Centers.

Data center owners and operators have their work cut out for them. Those who can rise to the challenge will be positioned to meet the needs of their existing and potential clients now and in the future. So where do you begin? Is it possible to get everything on your data center wish-list? With smart planning and the right partners, the answer is yes.

Building the New Data Center

Building a new data center that meets all of today’s needs starts with a plan. Begin by identifying how much space you will need to service your current customers and how much space you will need to meet your growth demands and expansion goals. Make a list of your current challenges. Write down what those challenges cost your business. How can those issues be addressed in your new building? Steps like these ensure known factors are accounted for and future needs are designed into the plans.

Working with trusted architectural and engineering firms is crucial. It’s their job to be knowledgeable about the full range of technology, materials, and design trends to help you make an informed decision. They translate the requirements of your building into design specifications that support both the physical structure and the infrastructure of the facility.

At FABCON, we work directly with architects and engineers early in the planning process. Because the earlier we’re engaged, the more we can help cut costs and time. Our solutions may influence the architect’s recommendations and design plans, which can help build a more efficient, durable and cost effective data center.

Planning for a Data Center

Choose your tier: Many data center owners and operators find that Tier III buildings provide the best value, while providing the functionality they need to service their customer’s storage and data needs. This may or may not work for you. Consider the cost implications (savings, expenses and revenue) for choosing Tier I, Tier II and Tier IV buildings.

Choose your building materials: While saving money during the building phase is important, it shouldn’t come at the cost of quality. Choosing inferior building materials can have a major ripple effect and lead to long-term financial consequences, including higher utility bills and the worst-case scenario, your building or equipment destroyed by a natural disaster.

Selecting your building materials should is significant component of your data center planning—and it’s well worth the time. Before making a purchase or signing a contract, it’s important to have a thorough understanding of R-Values, design flexibility, and sustainability ratings for the materials used in your project.

If you’re unfamiliar with the different types of materials and their features and benefits, take some time to learn about them. While too extensive to cover them in totality here, following is some information about emerging trends in data center construction.

Sustainable Architecture = Energy Efficiency

If you’re not familiar with the term, sustainable architecture is the practice of designing and constructing more energy-efficient buildings that have a positive impact on their environments. And with higher energy-efficiency comes lower energy costs. The U.S. Department of Energy reports that building managers could save 20- 30% on energy bills by implementing energy-efficient improvements. So not factoring in sustainability into your data center plan is leaving money on the table.

VersaCore+Green™ wall systems, which were created by FABCON Precast, meet the criteria for sustainability, giving buildings a higher percentage of recycled-product content, a higher level of energy efficiency and  load bearing  wall panels that support equipment loads and protect your data from potential weather related or security damage. VersaCore+Green wall panels incorporate up to 58% recycled content, as well as the potential for increased LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) points and tax credits.

These precast wall systems help save energy and money by delivering R-Values that are three points higher than other precast wall panels. The panels also weigh less than other options, so shipping costs may be lower.

The Case for Precast

As mentioned in the previous section, precast wall panels are becoming a popular option for data center construction. One of the drivers of this trend is that precast wall panels are more durable than other materials. This durability improves the security of your structure, while increasing the energy efficiency and reducing life cycle costs, driving down your data center’s PUE.

Natural disasters also are a growing concern for data center owners and operators, so it’s important to have wall panels that are highly resistant to impact damage. Precast concrete panels offer a higher level of impact resistance and security for your building and the equipment and data it protects, making them an attractive option that creates a building that lasts and in less time because the panels arrive at your jobsite ready to erect.

“Providing our customers with the most efficient, technologically-advanced and damage-resistant data centers is our point of differentiation.  We do it better, faster and more efficiently than anyone in our space…and Fabcon’s precast panels are an important aspect to that success,” added Compass Data Center’s Crosby.

Fire is another concern. FABCON’S VersaCore+Greencan be modified for “solid” areas to meet Fire Manual requirements for fire ratings up to four hours. They also help control the internal environment. For example, the strength, density and insulation of VersaCore+Green create an insulated “sandwich” wall panel that provides very low permeance ratings (water vapor transmission) compared to other types of concrete construction.

The “perm” rating of the 12” VersaCore+Green panels is .16 versus .46 for “sitecast” concrete and 1.8 for CMU construction*, qualifying them as vapor barriers. The mix composition and manufacturing methods also reduce air infiltration, which can help with the heat-load density mentioned earlier.

FABCON wall panels are manufactured with high strength concrete utilizing pre-stressed reinforcement, while incorporating integral insulation.

In a study conducted by the Wind Science & Engineering (WISE) Research Center at the University of Texas to determine the debris impact resistance of FABCON panels for tornado and DOE 1020-02 protocols, they concluded that all panels tested sufficiently withstood impact from airborne debris. Read the report. Watch the video.

Precast or Site Cast, What’s the Difference?

Both precast and site cast concrete panels offer advantages over CMU and metal. However, there are some key differences between the two.

Precast concrete panels are manufactured year-round in a controlled environment with consistent, documented quality, whereas site cast is subject to variable weather conditions and restrictive pouring conditions. Site cast manufacture limits access of other trades to the construction site and often impacts construction schedules. Site cast requires pouring on the slab and possible damage or use of casting-beds on site, which further disrupt the job site and add to cost and schedule.


Today’s data centers have a lot of requirements. If you’re a data center owner or operator in charge of planning the construction of new data centers, the choices you make during the planning phase will have long-term implications. This report only scratches the surface as to all that you have to consider but provides an overview of the issues impacting data center construction and the trends we’ve seen.

FABCON has been in the business for 45 years, so we understand the variables that go into building a data center, whether it’s a 10,000 square-foot facility or 1,000,000 square feet. Contact us today to speak with a sales engineer, who will be happy to answer your questions and discuss how precast cement panels fit into your data center plans. To learn more about FABCON, please visit

*CTL Group Permeability test results are available upon request.

Filed under: Data Centers
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