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Data Centre Developments

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The Hong Kong branch's March event focussed on recent developments in the data centre in Hong Kong. This well attended event on 18th March at the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club saw a presentation delivered by Liam Bolger.

Liam has worked in the engineering and construction industry for twenty five years in Austria and South East Asia. With a building services background, he has consulted for end-users, operators, and developers to drive value through clear articulation of project requirements, management of design and procurement to achieve optimal outcomes.

To begin with, Liam introduced the rapid growth of data storage and data traffic over the past few years. The global internet traffic increased from 2,000gb per second in 2007 to 12,000gb in 2012, and is estimated to be 37,000gb in 2017. In terms of hardware development, The number of translators on integrated circus doubles approximately every two years according to Moores Law.

Fuelled by the explosive growth in data use, the data centre industry has been forced to catch up with the ever-changing business environment and to overcome various challenges and opportunities. At the presentation, Liam shared with the audience a case study of a data centre in Tseung Kwan O, Hong Kong. He clearly demonstrated the drivers behind data centre developments in Hong Kong, time to market, return on investment, scalability, flexibility, availability, fault tolerance, connectivity, and energy performance.

Being one of the most important financial and trading hubs in the region, Hong Kong has seen an urgent need for secure data centre facilities and services to support its increased volume of trading traffic and technology advances. To this end, the Office of the Communication Authority was established in 2012 to ensure that Hong Kong has world-class communications services to meet the challenges of the information age. Government measures are taken to encourage the use of industrial buildings for the development of high tier data centres. Currently, there are over 20 data centre providers in Hong Kong, occupying about 1.3 million square feet of floor area, while other end user data centers occupying about 0.8 million square feet. They are mostly located within traditional industrial areas in Chai Wan, Wong Chuk Hang, Kwai Chung, Tsuen Wan, Sha Tin, etc. The current market situation is that most industrial buildings are ageing and those data centres in such buildings are to be redeveloped into Grade A offices with higher rental level. After all, the very limited land resources remain a constraint.

The site area of the Tseung Kwan O data centre is about 21,000 square meters with a gross floor area of about 53,000 square meters. With 900mm raised floor system, it is a Tier3+ design with 1 active and 1 alternate distribution paths, and concurrent maintainability. It is also a BIM-led design and to achieve LEED / HKBEAM+ Platinum accreditation.

The centre will be online from 2015.Its objectives are to maximize gross floor area and lettable area, utilising leading technology of DRUPS/IP Bus power and cooling systems. Liam went on to discus the data centre design, which focussed on function first. Emphasis was placed on E&M coordination, security, efficiency, system diversity, power and cooling management. (He also explained the Uninterruptible Power System (UPS) and the Static UPS.)

Liam advised that data centres consumed up to 100-200 times as much electricity as standard office spaces. With this in mind, growing emphasis is now on environmental impact, carbon footprint, social and political pressures. Turning to enhancing the data center performance, he suggested raising computer room temperature, water cooled chiller plants, variable speed pumps and fans, CFD modelling, LED lighting, BIM, and monitoring and metering systems of BMS, SCADA and DCMS, etc.

Following the discussion of the building processes from project brief and requirements to construction and handover, Liam presented some huge project management challenges. Risk management is at the core of data centre projects. E&M Consultant shall be an able project lead, with knowledgeable and consistent team members and with continuing performance monitoring ability. The design should allow development of architecture and structure without risk of abortive work. In view of the very nature of the data centres, main contractors need to be skilled at managing complex E&M works, as well as the sharing of risk between builders and E&M contractors; a high level of coordination and skill is required. Regarding the building program, we should allow sufficient time for statutory process and set realistic targets. Finally, data centres are a new breed, fall outside the norm, every step is questioned!


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