By Phil Carpenter, CMO, ALICE Technologies

With the rapid worldwide growth in demand for digital services – from Zoom calls to document sharing to streaming video – the demand for the data centers that make sharing all of this information possible has also intensified. Tiktok, Equinix, Amazon … all are pushing hard to bring on new data centers rapidly, either for their own use, or for use by their customers. And every day a data center construction project is late to complete can equate to more than $1M in lost value.

What is causing the construction of these essential projects to run behind schedule? For the last several years, supply chain problems have been particularly bad. Shipments of concrete and steel have arrived late, for example. Lumber has been tough to find – and expensive even when available. And the labor shortage has made things even worse. Experienced contractors and tradesmen are retiring – and they’re not being replaced quickly enough to make up for the labor shortfall. Predictions are that this problem will only get worse as young people pursue careers in different industries.

The AI solution

Given the importance of delivering data center projects on schedule, savvy contractors are turning to new technologies to help them manage their schedules more effectively and reduce associated risk. One of these solutions comes from ALICE Technologies. ALICE is the world’s first artificial AI-powered construction optioneering platform. Users upload a 3D model or logic diagram for their project before adding information relating to labor, materials, equipment and construction methodology. In ALICE, this information is combined in “Recipes,” and ALICE uses this information to create multiple scheduling options.

By adding constraints, including specific challenges or potential delays, owners can test different scenarios to see how they will influence the project delivery date and costs. Explains Kushal Dagli, customer success manager at ALICE, “ALICE allows data center owners and their teams to proactively create a plan of action to address challenges before it is too late.“

“For example,” Dagli continues, “we have seen projects where the design and planning stage has gone on longer than expected. By the time site preparation works were ready to begin, technology had progressed, meaning that the next generation of IT equipment would be needed to facilitate greater data loads. That has a follow-on effect for equipment suppliers and specialist labor. Previously, there was no way to test the impact of this change at project inception, or easily adjust schedules once projects were in progress. As ALICE is parametric, this is no longer a problem.”

Owners can also use such technology to help them forecast risks. If problems arise with a project, general contractors commonly ask owners how they’d like to proceed. In most situations, owners make their best guess and hope that the cost of that decision is minimal. Instead, owners can use technology like ALICE to understand the implications of these decisions and make more informed choices.

Challenges and Opportunities

What challenges do contractors and owners experience as they put these new technologies to work on their data center projects? Perhaps the most significant is managing change. Many in the construction industry have been in their roles for years and are thus reluctant to do things differently. Therefore, in bringing new tools onboard, it is critical to help users to understand their benefits and learn to use them well. It is also essential that workers not feel threatened. AI is not “here to take their jobs.” Instead, these are tools that can help these team members to do their jobs more efficiently and reduce tasks that are repetitive (and boring). As understanding of AI’s advantages on a data center project spreads within a company, early skeptics often change their tune and emerge as advocates.

For those who can see the opportunities ahead and pivot to meet them, the potential is immense. The United States data center construction market is expected to grow from USD 23.29 billion in 2023 to USD 30.79 billion by 2028. Companies that embrace new ways to build these projects will be those that come out on top.

Phil CarpenterPhil Carpenter is CMO with ALICE Technologies, which helps general contractors and owners worldwide to leverage the power of AI to plan, bid and build their capital projects more efficiently. He is also the co-founder of Whiskey Creek Properties, an Arizona-based developer of small multi-family properties. For more inaformation about the ALICE platform, visit