Mission Critical - More Than Just a Data Centre

Robert Elsworth
There is a misconception that mission critical projects relate only to large data centres but in actual fact there is a lot more to it.

Many of our clients have 'critical' systems and processes, vital to their business as usual (BAU) activities. These systems and processes often rely on a wide range of equipment such as standby power supplies and critical cooling systems for which failure or disruption can result in serious impact to business operations.

What is Mission Critical?

Mission critical refers to any factor of a system (equipment, process, procedure, software) whose failure will result in the failure of business operations. That is, it is crucial to the organisations "mission". Projects that fall in to this category are of technically complex, high risk nature and generally involve the upgrade or installation of IT systems and / or mechanical and electrical building services. They can fall in to following sub-categories:

  • Data centres; the installation of a new facility or extension or relocation.
  • Critical infrastructure projects; the upgrade of mechanical and electrical infrastructure to improve resilience against failure.
  • Management of Integrated Systems Tests.

In most cases the projects are undertaken in existing, occupied buildings. There is a particular focus placed on the financial sector in terms of mission criticality, but in actuality it's just as critical for clients across a number of sectors who occupy buildings with mission critical systems, processes and equipment such as, healthcare, education, energy & utilities, pharmaceuticals, science & technology, commercial and transport.

Case Studies in Point

Critical Generator Replacement: Our client was a large financial institution, the project located in their North London office. Our role required the installation of three new standby generators to the roof top plant area. The generators were an essential requirement for maintaining business continuity. This particular office was a key location within our client’s London property portfolio and extremely important to remain fully operational 24hrs. This office also contained a 4000ft² data centre with strategic links to other data centres located in London and Scotland.

There is a particular focus placed on the financial sector in terms of mission criticality...

Recognising the importance of maintaining the existing resilience levels throughout the duration of the project as well as future life of the office was key to the project's success and why we were appointed to this project.

Consolidation of four existing UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply) systems into three whilst maintaining existing levels of resilience to all critical services: Our client was a European investment bank of which this was their head office. Key to this project was our creation of four key stages to the transition in order to maintain resilience levels throughout including the decommissioning of the redundant system on completion of the new installation. This involved interaction with 42 critical loads across the London Campus and replacement of eight built in static transfer switches.

Key project achievements:

  • Installation of over 7km of new sub-main multicore armoured cable across occupied floors without any impact to daily business operations.
  • 3 x 800kVA UPS modules integrated with existing input / output switchboards.
  • Transfer of existing building critical loads (data centres, trading floors and desktop power) to alternative UPS systems to retain their normal resiliency.
  • Integrated Systems Test management.

New External Utilities Building: Our client was a major multinational mass media and information firm. The project was to build a new External Utilities Building (EUB) incorporating new generators, chillers and a sub-station to support their critical London Data Centre. Existing systems supported the critical loads throughout the project and following a series of Integrated Systems Tests the new systems were transferred over.

It is highly complex, requires in-depth knowledge, is delivered by a multi-skilled team who specialise in a particular area.

Key project achievements:

  • The EUB provides a new substation and installation of four out of a possible six new generators with associated switching and distribution. 
  • New supply to accommodate existing requirements including an increase in capacity to allow for future expansion within the building and the new generators providing additional resilience in the event of mains power failure. 
  • The site is restricted, surrounded by high rise housing, hotels and other building sites demanding strict control over access deliveries.

Can Anyone do it?

Mission Critical is exactly what it says – critical to a business's ability to operate. Without it, there is no business. It is highly complex, requires in-depth knowledge, is delivered by a multi-skilled team who specialise in a particular area. There is no typical mission critical cv, but a team member will likely display the following attributes:

Mission Critical


The Mission Critical work we do supports our activity in commercial property and allows us to enhance our offering alongside our office fit-out team by being able to offer our clients a more suitable approach; understanding the business critical elements of their business, understanding of building services and backup systems, understanding the importance of resilience levels, assessing the project risks both during and post construction and implementing the necessary mitigation measures required to ensure success. This approach is essential to ensuring that the projects can be successfully delivered without impact to business as usual and can often impact project costs and programme from the outset.

We have a wealth of experience across our teams (project management, cost management, strategic asset management, Sustainability and health & safety) in delivering technically complex projects from critical plant replacement to mechanical and electrical infrastructure upgrades. Other services comprise: life cycle critical plant replacement, single point of failure identification and rectification, energy audits, asset condition assessments, black building and power down coordination and resilience assessment / risk management.

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