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Q&A: The Biggest Challenges Facing Data Centers

Server cabinets in a data center

From ensuring new data centers meet ever-changing energy codes to retrocommissioning older buildings, HVAC tech experts require, as Liam Neeson would put it, a particular set of skills. Bisnow sat down with Boland's senior account executive and former senior project developer, Garay Goglio, to touch on what it takes to keep data centers up and running.

BISNOW: What do you look for when benchmarking a data center’s need for retrocommissioning, and what are the benefits? 

GOGLIO: Most data centers are commissioned when built, but as time goes by, needs change. You’re talking about a building that’s been in use for a minimum of five years. The client might start noticing changes in the operation or efficiency of the building or experience a spike in their energy bills. The benefits of a retrocommissioning include improving space conditions to meet new needs; maintaining and improving uptime and reducing energy use.

BISNOW: Is it possible to reject a building for retrocommissioning? 

GOGLIO: Sure, and funding is probably the main reason behind a rejection. It all depends on how long a tenant or owner plans to stay in one place, or how marketable it needs to be to for the next occupant. 

BISNOW: What would you say to a data center building owner who is hesitant to pay for Intelligent Services knowing that their property would benefit from them? 

GOGLIO: Intelligent Services are an inexpensive way to ensure peace of mind. It all boils down to the owner's business or their ability to do business, in the case of data centers. If there is a loss of power due to cooling or other infrastructure issues, the data center cannot operate. Without the data center, business operations come to a halt. Intelligent services not only keep things running but also alert key personnel of potential issues before they happen. Additionally, the cost of intelligent services is easily recoverable once installed. Typically, our clients are putting money back in their pockets in less than a year.

Intelligent Services platform

BISNOW: How often does green HVAC technology undergo significant updates? Do you anticipate future tech updates to significantly alter or affect the need for retrofitting services? 

GOGLIO: In my opinion, the biggest change in our industry stems from the 1987 Montreal Protocol, where all the developing nations got together to regulate ozone depletion and greenhouse gases. They determined the old Chlorofluorocarbons needed to be replaced or taken out of use because of how much they were contributing to the problem. There has been a lot of progress with variable speeds and motors, and Boland is on top of that technology. If we have a client with outdated chillers, we are capable of evaluating whether you need a repair, a retrofit or a replacement, and we have the technology and ability to implement all of it. We can help clients understand their options. Not everybody operates the same way. Data centers have a unique set of concerns, compared to other buildings.

BISNOW: How does Boland stay ahead of the curve?

GOGLIO: To stay ahead of the curve, Boland employs highly trained people and not just technicians. We encourage and financially support the education and training of all Boland employees. In fact, more than 70% of our associates have achieved professional accreditation including professional engineer, NEBB Building System Commissioning, MBA, CPA, LEED accredited professional and Certified Energy Manager. Education is critical to serving our clients in the best way possible. 

BISNOW: What is one best practice every property owner or manager of older, retrofitted buildings should follow to maintain the highest possible efficiency standards? 

GOGLIO: This is very basic, but it is a major issue: keep the building and equipment clean and well-maintained. Dirt on a water chiller’s tubes, tubes that are eight-one hundredths of an inch thick, correlates to a 30% surge in electric usage. I love this question because sometimes we get all hyped up with the technical details. But stick with the simple stuff, like cleaning and maintenance, and it will make a world of difference.

BISNOW: What is the biggest challenge facing data centers? 

GOGLIO: I work primarily with two types of clients in data centers. Some are enterprise or owner-occupied data centers, while others are co-location data centers, which lease out space for their clients. Most co-location owners have a service level agreement with their tenants that outlines requirements pertaining to the amount of power, temperature and humidity ranges and loss of power back-up plans. If these are not met, there is a penalty. As with many data centers, if they go offline, the ability to “Add-To-Cart” goes with it, which is why we are there to keep those virtual shopping carts running. 

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