University Minimizes Data Center Risk During Roof Replacement

Urban University

A private, metropolitan doctoral research university serving over 7,000 students embarked on a roof replacement of one of their main buildings in a downtown location. The building is home to various academic departments, student services, orientation programs, and campus police. The building’s roof was also home to some of the university’s critical mechanical and electrical infrastructure that supports the data center.

Ideally, the best location for a high-reliability data center is in a single-story, detached building with no functions other than IT and tech support. However, in pricey urban locations with no available land, many organizations place their data centers on multi-use buildings’ upper floors to maximize space and minimize reliability risks. Issues from above-occupied floors or other water and sewage risks can be problematic in a lower floor or basement location. Whether the roof-top data center was part of the building’s initial design or created after construction, the data center infrastructure must be carefully managed during a roof replacement to ensure minimal operational impact.

Leading Edge Design Group (LEDG) was selected to assist the university’s Information and Technology Services (IT) team during the roof replacement by collaborating with various consultants and contractors assigned to the project. LEDG served as the data center subject-matter experts to oversee data center infrastructure and equipment primarily for the data center’s power and cooling needs.

Services included:

  • Review of construction documents to determine what roof replacement activities would impact the mechanical and electrical infrastructure.
  • Identify and outline potential risks to the data center during construction.
  • Provide recommendations for the information technology and construction teams to ensure the data center received the right amount of cooling and minimize data center power risks and interruptions during all phases.
  • Attend weekly construction meetings to provide representation on behalf of the IT team.
  • Review of construction schedules, phasing, and coordination of activities between the construction team and the IT team.
  • Review of the method of procedure documents for all construction activities that could potentially affect the mechanical and electrical infrastructure serving the data center.

After reviewing construction plans, the roof replacement design would increase the roof’s height due to the installation of new roof insulation. And require the installation of new insulation and roofing membrane underneath each piece of equipment, including a dedicated emergency generator, four condensing units serving the In-Row cooling units, and a cooling tower serving the redundant cooling (CRAC units). LEDG worked with the general contractor to develop a phasing plan to minimize the data center’s risk during each of these activities to ensure a successful project.