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A Deeper Dive into T5 Data Center's New Plano, Texas, Co-location Facility

T5 Data Centers is “Texas sizing” one of its co-location facilities. Through an expansion project, the company, which builds, owns, and operates business-critical data centers nationwide, is adding a second single-story facility on a 30MW site in Plano, Texas.

Walker Engineering, the electrical contractor on the project, partnered with Syska Hennessy Group, the electrical engineering firm, and Fortis Construction and Holder Construction, the general contractors, to build [email protected], a server-ready, multi-tenant data center. The team constructed the shell of the first building eight years ago, and after it was fully leased, the workers began constructing [email protected], a new 260,000-sq-ft building with an administrative space.

When building the data center on the fast track, the team had to employ labor-saving methods in the field. For example, through prefabrication, building information modeling (BIM) and the installation of 20-ft lengths of conduit, the project partners were able to wrap up the job six weeks ahead of schedule without impacting existing operations.

Throughout the project, the electricians followed an extensive methods of procedures (MOPs) program. Aaron Henson, field superintendent for Walker Engineering, says the electricians were able to tie the new parts onto existing parts of the building through switching and various schemes.

“There was no impact to the customer, and they were up and running during all phases of construction,” Henson says.

Installing underground infra-structure. When working on the project, one of the key challenges revolved around the underground phase of construction. To improve the productivity of the field workforce, the workers cut down the dirt 5 ft inside the shell of the first building. As a result, the dirt was already at the underground depth rather than at slab elevation when the electricians arrived on-site.

“It helped a lot, and it took about a month off of our schedule,” Henson says.

The electricians spent about three months installing 30,000 ft of underground pipe as well as utility feeders and downstream feeders. When installing the underground pipe and cable, Walker Engineering relied on BIM, which helped to prevent clashes and coordinate the placement of the cabling around several different utilities.

After the concrete slab was poured, the field workforce then set the gear, pulled feeder conductors, and terminated the cable. In addition, the electricians constructed utility rooms with separate mechanical yards for each phase of the building. With this approach, they were able to keep the systems isolated and effectively separate tenants within the co-location facility.

Saving time and labor. Another way Walker Engineering and the project team met the deadlines on the fast-track project was by installing 20-ft sections of steel conduit that could be shaped around existing MEP infrastructure. By running double the length of traditional conduit sections, the firm reduced the overall cost of the material and couplings, and achieved more than 25% in time savings, according to Henson.

“That was huge for us because you are running double the length at one time,” he says. “Instead of bending two 10-ft pieces, you can make multiple bends in one 20-ft piece so you can install it all at one time.”

The electrical contractor also saved time through on-site prefabrication of the 150,000 ft of telecom cable tray systems. Instead of transporting the materials, the electricians were able to manage the materials on-site and install them.

Streamlining the material logistics became especially important because Walker Engineering had nearly 100 electricians on site during the peak of the project. Also, multiple trades were working simultaneously within the shell of the two buildings. To meet the deadlines on the project, the team often worked about six days a week with four 10-hr days and two 8-hr days per week.

“It was a fast-paced job, and everyone was trying to get their part of it done,” Henson says. “The biggest challenge was the coordination of the equipment and materials so they were out in front of the guys who were installing it. We also had to coordinate with other trades so we could meet each other’s schedules and needs.”

Customizing the spaces. After constructing the shell of the two buildings and installing 16 4,000A services with 2.5MW generators, Walker Engineering and its project partners will soon move to the next phase, which involves meeting the power requirements of each individual tenant.

Because the data center is designed as a co-location facility, the contractor had to build a power system for each one of the nine separate data halls. As such, the team had to determine how many square feet the tenant will need, as well as how much power they’ll require to run their equipment. Once the tenant is assigned to the floor, Walker Engineering then provides them with the appropriate amount of power based on their requirements.

As the team is working with each individual tenant to meet power requirements, the electricians are providing downstream power to the floors and preparing for the expansion of the data center next summer. Henson, who has been involved in all three phases of the project, says it has been rewarding to be part of the data center team.

“It is something I am very proud of,” he says.    

Fischbach is a freelance writer based in Overland Park, Kan. She can be reached at [email protected]

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