The architectural design approach on issues concerning cooling, power supply and security

Many companies, whether in France or abroad, have computer servers in their offices. However with ever-increasing needs of data storage, sometimes companies need to develop server rooms or install their servers in a specialised facility that houses computer systems and their associated components. This facility is called a datacentre. So what are the specific requirements regarding these two solutions for data storage and their impact in terms of construction and the architecture of the buildings?
Salles Serveurs et Datacenters
Server Room in a Datacentre

The server room: the issue of cooling

When the number of servers is few they are often just located in a designated area within the office. However once the number increases, it makes sense to create a dedicated server room in order to reduce the nuisance created by the noise and heat. As numbers and size increase the cooling issue becomes more critical. Servers can overheat, automatically shut down or may even melt. The equipment and data contained can be irreversibly damaged and lost, causing harm to the business and its activity. To overcome this issue, air conditioning systems are installed to regulate the temperature of the room. However what happens if there is a power failure?

An increasing need for power

Salle Serveurs et Datacenters
Technical components in a datacentre
A stable power supply must be in place using an uninterruptible power supply (UPS) device, which prevents any failure of power to the system, regardless of what is happening on the external power grid. This way the server and its associated equipment can continue to operate for a specified duration. Particular attention must be paid to the site’s power supply, which can include the integration of back-up generators or dual feed supplies.  It is quite common to include an additional emergency generator in the event of a back-up generators failing at a critical moment. It’s quite rare as the equipment should be tested regularly.

Security of the equipment and buildings

Salles serveurs
Diagram showing system of automatique fire extinguishers
The last issue, but definitely not the least, deals with the security of the servers. By increasing the number of servers, the need for more vigilance and the implementation of safe solutions to prevent any malfunction of the system becomes increasingly important. The servers must function continuously regardless of the situation. These solutions include:
  • Restricted access
  • Management of the fire risks
  • Protection against intrusion or a security breach
  • Implementation of video surveillance systems (CCTV – closed circuit television)
  • Integration of a building management system (BMS – Building Management Systems)
  • Doubling up of some of the equipment

Datacentres: the impact on the architecture of the buildings

In order to address the issues regarding security, power supply and cooling in the construction of a datacentre, various solutions, such as the use of back-up generators when necessary, specialised air conditioning systems, fibre optic supply and connections, raised floors, high security devices, automatic fire extinguishing systems, detection against intrusion, controlled access and centralised BMS (Battery Management System), must all be incorporated into the conception and design of the building.
The challenge architecturally is to integrate all of these devices and solutions, necessary for the servers, into a space that is technically functional, working with the surrounding environment. Each factor is taken into account and, as the datacentre consumes large amounts of energy; careful consideration is given to the energy efficiency of the site as a whole. Whilst endeavouring to improve the energy efficiency and performance of the datacentre buildings, Reid Brewin Architects give priority to maximising the natural ventilation of the buildings and to developing solutions for the recovery of the heat given out by the equipment. This heat can then be re-used as part of the heating solutions in other parts of the building. Much depends on the site location and we have been very successful at inserting datacentres into dense urban locations (more of a vertical solution) as well as developing low rise modular solutions.
Datacenter Modulaire
Scheme for a modular datacentre in the outskirts of Paris
Reid Brewin Architects is one of the leading architectural practices in France recognised for its experience in the design and construction of data centres, including modular data centres. The firm has worked on many projects throughout Europe and the Middle East, notably in France for Global Switch, Equinix, Digital Realty, Telecity, Sodearif and Bouygues Energy Services.