Investing in a Data Centre: Data Centre Guidance Note

Stuart Dingley
Data centre construction is on the increase.

According to research published by the firm Research and Marketing and reported on the Datacentre Dynamics website, The global data centre construction market will grow from $14.59bn in 2014 to $22.73bn in 2019, at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 9.3% (full article). Whilst published back in 2015, we have seen this growth continue into 2017 and is very likely to continue into the near future. This sustained forecasted growth of the UK and Europe Data Centre market, particularly co-location providers, requires businesses investing in data centres to seek ways of gaining the quickest route to market, whilst simultaneously reducing capital investment and achieving low cost operational solutions.

Key Considerations:

With the increasing tighter timescales to design, build and reach market, it is essential that a robust brief is developed at the outset, based on the company’s risk appetite and business model to provide a firm foundation for the initiation of the project.

Ensuring the data centre is suitable for the client’s business needs is crucial.

The preparation of a detailed project brief will set the main parameters of design, tier rating, budget, the approach to risk management, and the preferred procurement route.

Ensuring the data centre is suitable for the client’s business needs is crucial.

Key criteria which should be considered when assessing the suitability of a location is very different to that of other real estate buildings typically forming part of a company’s portfolio. Site selection factors can include:

  • Political stability
  • Geographical and geophysical location including proximity to major transport links
  • Power availability and distribution 
  • Fibre connectivity 
  • Data and physical security 
  • Local planning constraints
  • Environmental assessments

Design – The Right Tier Rating  

The ever-increasing focus on the cost of ownership, client organisations need clear guidance on the cost impact of the design. This must be carefully developed to provide the required Tier resilience and redundancy, taking into consideration the cost, functionality and the resiliency levels of other components of the facility such as the Information Technology components.

Faithful+Gould work closely with the design team to provide detailed cost models, based on the differing resilience and tier scenarios, ensuring the client develops the right data centre which is aligned to their business needs.

The ever-increasing focus on the cost of ownership, client organisations need clear guidance on the cost impact of the design.

The design should aim to achieve the maximum flexibility. A scalable solution will allow clients to build density as required, whilst designs should accommodate the maintenance need and ‘swapping out’ engineering equipment or even accommodating increased cabinet power densities and alternative cooling mediums.

Whilst the design of Data Centres is complicated, the issues that should be considered are relatively straightforward and should include the following:

  • Technical Standards: Identify and meet governing bodies’ standards 
  • Civil/Architectural: Load bearing, fire proofing etc
  • Culture: Working practices in geographical area 
  • Mechanical: Air and liquid cooling considerations etc
  • Electrical: Power load and redundancy level addressing UPS System, Generator System etc 
  • Security: It is important that the extent of the security is considered at the outset of the design as some items may well form part of the initial work phases 
  • Fire Safety: Risk assessment, local statutory requirements, insurance etc.


In addressing procurement issues, providers should be aware that:

  • Adequate resources must be deployed by the Consultant Team to ensure ‘best-in-class’ solution and a well-defined scope of works
  • Architectural design must be subservient to the engineering solution and experience of this dynamic is crucial
  • Early appointment of the Cost Manager is key, as a robust budget should be produced at the outset from limited resilience / tier information. By speaking the language of the Lead Consultant, the cost manager is well placed to tease out the relevant information which drives cost to the benefit of the project
  • Selection of the correct procurement route, and the right Contractor with a demonstrable track record. It is imperative to all critical engineering projects that the project team satisfy itself that the contractor has demonstrated in detail how he intends to build the project, demonstrating strong supply chain relationships
  • Early appointment of ‘non-traditional’ advisors i.e. Commissioning Manager, IT/Security advisors etc.

Appetite for Risk

All providers and businesses are different and so is their acceptance to risk. The capital investment must be weighed up against the operational risk levels sought by key stake holders. Understanding these risks are important as the cost (both capital and operational) of the build can increase significantly when reviewing areas such as resilience and reliability levels. Faithful+Gould can provide a fully integrated approach to CAPEX and OPEX costs quantitively showing the benefit to clients of differing resilience levels. Our wide Data Centre experience has enabled us to develop comprehensive Data Centre specific register containing over 100 risks which we offer clients as a springboard into the risk process.

The capital investment must be weighed up against the operational risk levels sought by key stake holders.

Failure to fully grasp the risk tolerance levels may expose businesses to operational incidents through under investment, whilst over expenditure may increase operational costs, lowering competitive advantage.

Our dedicated Mission Critical team is adept at supporting and supplementing the skills of our clients’, asking the right questions at the right time and guiding project teams toward the goal of successfully delivering data centre developments.

We deliver best value for our clients, using our in-house Cost and Project Management teams who sit alongside our Life Cycle Costing team. We understand and will align our clients’ aims with capital and operating costs, risk and redundancy levels, finding deliverable solutions to meet our clients’ needs.