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Data Centers – Increasing in Complexity and Demand

In addition to being one of the most complex project types, data center growth is expected to increase at an annual rate of 6.4% from 2020 through 2027.

As more and more companies opt to house their data needs in a co-location environment as opposed to building custom solutions in house, the co-location project typology will drive continued growth for the foreseeable future and is expected to generate revenues of 12 billion by 2024.

Primary drivers for this growth are the expansion of the Internet of Things, Industry 4.0 and the digitalization of many current industry workflows and processes. Also compounding the need for more data centers is the copious amounts of information consumed by consumers themselves and the necessary bandwidth required to meet those demands.

These factors contribute to the fact that the world needs an increase of bandwidth at the individual, community, city, regional, national and global stratums.

These drivers are pushing the industry to adapt and evolve the building type to be more sustainable, more quickly executed through construction, easier to maintain and more resilient and adaptable once in operation. Moore’s Law and the proliferation of flash storage increases bandwidth and reduces the footprint required, but overall market demand for more data still requires more data centers as no single technological advancement in processing power or storage to date can keep up with the demand for more data center capacity and increased footprints.

As a case study of AEC and VDC/BIM technology currently implemented on construction projects in the AEC sector, data centers may be leading the way. The abbreviated schedules, design constraints or lack of information – coupled with the technological complexity of the systems and overall nature of this project type as a whole – drive innovation and require optimal communication between the owner, general contractors, trade partners and field crews.

As such, data centers commonly employ industry best practices such as hybrid project delivery methods such as IPD, design-build or design-assist to enable project design and development without significant contract drawing production times. Also increasing the construction performance of the project are prefabrication, cloud-enabled document management and BIM management and field, safety and quality control workflows.

The deployment of drone tech and enhanced BIM LOD’s (level of detail) that are not commonly employed on other project types are both used to meet these demanding schedules and maintain quality.

The operational tip of the spear of this effort is the overall virtual project coordination as facilitated by the VDC manager and trade partners where the various scopes of work are aggregated into a central model, commonly but inaccurately known as “clash detection.”

This process should be more accurately and specifically referred to as a virtual superintending environment, where the digital twin begins its life. This wholistic project coordination occurs at a critical point in the project maturation & design development, where architects and engineers of records’ design intent become translated into much higher levels of detail. These are scrutinized for means of methods, and further project constraints are all overlaid through the VDC coordination process to virtually confirm and clarify the engineer of record and architect of record’s design intent.

Many times, this coordination process is the first opportunity that the trade partner SME’s have had access to the entirety of the project information which commonly results in the questioning of the initial design assumptions and approaches. Many times, the GC and coordination teams effectively rebuild the digital project from scratch.

When asked, “Considering the technology that is used on your projects, what is the single biggest impact on a project’s success?” DPR Construction’s VDC Manager, Alex Nash responded: “It’s the model-based coordination effort. This is an opportunity to flush out any inconsistencies and optimize the design while left of a critical path. Design optimization includes considering measures such as sequencing and safety both during construction and facilities management.

A quality coordination model is what enables downstream VDC workflows like layout, laser scanning for quality control and other field technology measures, as well as our self-perform work and prefabrication efforts. It is the backbone of our most impactful VDC workflows.”

As stated by Alex and proven by DPR’s successful track-record with data centers, the coordination process initializes a cascade of downstream construction initiatives (best practices) such as the ability to define scopes of work that could be assembled in a modular or preassembly fashion, scopes of work that need to be released early to meet just in time delivery dates and the ability to properly sequence the work so that field efficiency is maintained.

The virtual models provide BIM to field and field to BIM layout workflows as well as the ability to reality capture to confirm and compare scopes of work that are installed vs scheduled, not to mention the authoring and development of the contractually required coordination and shop drawings to be submitted to the designers of record.

With Hexagon’s BricsCAD BIM, EcoSys, Leica and HxGN Smart Build™ Insight platforms, your mission-critical teams can build each of the models required for the project coordination and then combine them with schedule and cost to create an integrated True5D tool to be used throughout construction.

Bi-directional workflows with popular industry scheduling systems allow true integration of the schedule to not only create real-time updated 4D and 5D simulations but allow your talented field teams to directly update and push the schedule back to management or the scheduler without additional and delaying digital rework.

Reach out to me directly or stop by the Smart Build™ Insight website to see how our products can help your data center teams better manage projects, reduce risk, and increase team engagement from previously siloed workflows.

About the Author

Daron is a senior industry consultant for Hexagon’s PPM division for AEC and Buildings & Infrastructure. He has a bachelor’s degree in architectural engineering from Fairmont State University and a master’s degree in architecture, construction and sustainability from Virginia Tech. He is based in Charleston, S.C., USA.

Profile Photo of Daron Pardine