Ron Hughes, president of California Data Center Design Group (, says:

Planning and documentation are the key.Your OPR should document your project goals, the design criteria for your data center, (how you expect the data center to perform), your redundancy and reliability requirements, energy efficiency and sustainability or LEED criteria, as well as testing and commissioning requirements at the end of the project. It should also be updated as decisions are made on the project.

Have one person in charge – groups are not recommended.The larger the group, the less likely you will be able to get a decision quickly when needed and the less likely you will be to get everyone together when a critical decision has to be made. Having a single point of contact for decisions even if they have to sell their decisions to upper management is always preferable.

Prequalification of design firms and contractors is critical. While most companies in business today are very capable, experience counts when it comes to data centers. Experienced firms have already learned from their mistakes and won’t repeat them on your job. Making sure that firms bidding on your project have completed similar projects within the last 5 years will go a long way towards ensuring the success of your project.

How long should it take?
If there are planned outages required, it might extend the timeframes dramatically. We have one data center remodel we’ve been working on for a year and a half and are still not finished. They only have one window every 6 months where work can be done that has the potential to impact the data center.

Design build tends to be faster, but you are definitely dependent upon the design skills of the contractors. One solution that works well for data centers is to have a data center design firm do the conceptual design and then have design build contractors complete the for construction design documents. You can then have the design firm provide peer review services to make sure that the final design is consistent with the intent of the conceptual design.

You’d be shocked at how many large projects there are where nothing has been completed and yet they still want to commission as if it were. You can’t do a functional test of a system that isn’t functional! You can’t do an integrated systems test if all of the systems have not been started up and are fully functional! You can’t test UPS systems if the cooling for the UPS room isn’t completed.