We’ve watched data center projects become fragmented into separate technology system packages that are designed by different designers and then installed by different contractors. This can result in system clashes, construction coordination issues, and commissioning issues that impact the project schedule and budget. Collaboration, convergence, and construction administration are the three C’s to keep data center projects on schedule and budget.
Integrating and converging systems requires sound planning and evaluation of existing organizational procedures and processes, infrastructure, and systems. It requires an owner and the supporting system owners to collaborate and invest the time up front to discuss specific needs so that designs and specifications can be written to help define, converge, and integrate communication systems, data, AV, security, BMS, wireless, DAS, lighting control, asset management, facilities systems, and the many other data center infrastructure and technology systems.
Integration and convergence are extremely complex to implement. Stakeholders should adopt a plan that focuses on them very early in the project. We have learned through our experience that investing time in detailed project planning up front, developing a project plan and an agreed-upon responsibility matrix, and establishing an integrated project management team to manage the technology projects greatly increases the chances for a positive outcome.
Recommended solutions continue to change depending on the evolution of technology for each system. There is value in working with an experienced consultant that has subject matter experts in all technology systems who understand how the systems are evolving and will be supported by the converged network.
Efficiencies and cost savings can result from convergence at multiple layers:
- The network layer;
- The physical infrastructure layer;
- The operations and maintenance (O&M) layer.
Not all networks within a building are converged onto the IT network. We still see building automation systems and security networks installed as standalone networks. If these networks can be converged with the IT network, additional savings can be realized.
The physical layer is where we see the most progress in convergence. Even if a network cannot be converged onto the IT network, it should share the same physical layer of infrastructure. The opportunity here is to have the un-converged networks use the same type and manufacturer of cable, the same telecommunication rooms for consolidating equipment, and the same cable trays for distribution.
Further cost savings and efficiencies can result from focusing O&M personnel on one converged system, rather than having multiple managers and personnel operating and maintaining separate systems.
The owner’s design intent is reflected in the specifications, drawings, and building models developed through the design process. Construction Administration (CA) is the process that verifies the owner’s design intent is properly implemented by the contractor. The design verification helps the closeout phase of the project and helps deliver a final set of documents that reflect what was actually built. This is important for operations, maintenance, and future upgrades of the facility.
Effective CA will track the design intent along with construction. By catching deviations from the design early in the construction process, it allows the contractor to take immediate corrective action that will reduce costly field challenges, change orders, and schedule impacts.
We see variations in how owners treat CA. Some owners handle much of it themselves while many continue to trust and understand the importance of having their contracted design professionals complete the CA work.
We strongly recommend the creation of a collaborative owner/architect/contractor (OAC) CA project execution plan (PEP). This plan provides clearly defined roles, responsibilities, expectations, and deliverable requirements and serves as the basis for CA protocols. With a clear plan, and the buy-in of each party, the PEP can lead to a more collaborative relationship among the owner, AE, and contractor teams.
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