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Data centres are feeling the heat

Packaged chiller plant rooms within data centres cut installation time by up to 95%. (Image source: Adobe Stock)

Kevin Laidler, sales director for Middle East and Africa at Armstrong Fluid Technology, writes forTechnical Review Middle East, explaining how innovations in the HVAC sector can help data centres. 

With demand for data centres increasing steadily, the call for innovative solutions that guarantee steadfast performance becomes an imperative. 

In today's digital age, where information fuels both personal and business endeavours, data centres have emerged as the backbone of our interconnected world. From the seamless functioning of online applications to the secure storage of invaluable data, these unassuming warehouses, filled with rows upon rows of computer servers, play an indispensable role in enabling the digital experiences we have come to depend on. 

In fact, the heat densities within a typical data centre environment can be up to 5 times higher than in a typical office setting. With electronic components that are susceptible to environmental conditions, maintaining precise temperature, humidity, air movement, and air purity becomes a critical imperative. Conditions must be kept within specific limits to safeguard against equipment failures and downtime. As such, specialist HVAC systems are required to maintain an optimum indoor environment at all times. 

Considering the mission-critical nature of data centres, reliability is paramount. But how can we ascertain the capability of the systems in play? This is where the concept of packaged chiller plant rooms emerges, with its potential for transformative benefits. Packaged solutions such as those supplied by Armstrong Fluid Technology, are constructed off-site and undergo rigorous testing and quality control prior to delivery to ensure optimum performance. Installed with the guidance of detailed drawings outlining precise dimensions and connection points, these solutions markedly diminish the potential for human error.

Traditional ‘stick-built’ HVAC systems on the other hand, are typically composed of many different elements, all of which require sourcing from various suppliers and assembling on site. For installing contractors, purchasing, handling and coordinating all required materials to build a complete HVAC pump system on-site is inefficient, with its own set of challenges; often pieces get lost or go missing, leading to construction delays. It must also be guaranteed that the specified components work both individually and holistically.

Packaged chiller plant rooms within data centres can cut installation time by up to 95%, as the need for on-site assembly is eliminated. In scenarios demanding upgrades or expansions to existing data centre infrastructure, these scalable solutions demonstrate their exceptional value. Packaged chiller rooms support a modular approach to cooling, empowering data centres to flexibly enhance cooling capacity as requirements evolve. Considering the recent explosion in demand for data centres—projected to surge from 17 gigawatts in 2022 to 35 gigawatts by 2030 in the US market alone—strategic scalability within current facilities becomes paramount.

In my experience with Armstrong Fluid Technology, automation technology such as EVERCOOL, is another great way to guarantee reliability in system performance. EVERCOOL controls the chilled water plant while optimising cooling and system performance. If a problem is detected, the system is able to switch to a backup system within milliseconds, effectively ensuring 100% uptime and reliability. Just like the packaged chiller plant room, EVERCOOL is pre-engineered, pre-programmed, and pre-tested, resulting in an accelerated time-to-market deployment. Its modular design also presents opportunities for scalability, unburdened by constraints on plant size or cooling capacity.

With a rapid global proliferation of data centres, practices for design, installation and management of cooling systems must adapt and continue to evolve to meet the growing demand. Innovative methods of solution supply, such as off-site construction, are fast becoming the standard. With recent innovations in automation technology, this shift presents a unique opportunity for the data centre industry to aggressively upgrade efficiencies for enhanced performance.