Manufacturers’ focus on data centers: HVAC

Designing efficient and effective data centers and mission critical facilities is a top priority for consulting engineers. Manufacturers discuss HVAC systems, cooling systems, and solutions.



  • John Collins, Global Segment Director, Data Centers, Eaton Corp., Raleigh-Durham, N.C.
  • Jim Dagley, Vice President, Channel Marketing & Strategy, Johnson Controls Inc., Milwaukee, Wis. 
  • John Kovach, Global Head of Data Center Initiatives, Siemens, Buffalo Grove, Ill.


CSE: What HVAC issue comes to the forefront most when you’re supporting engineers designing data centers? How do you help overcome these issues/answer their questions?

Kovach: The typical environmental parameters of temperature, humidity, pressure, and ventilation are a given for every operating condition—normal or abnormal. But what is at the forefront of planning and designing data centers is speed, uptime, redundancy, response time, reaction in normal sequences, and reaction when there is a problem. There is no magic or product that answers all of these challenges. Systems will ultimately only do what they are programmed to do. Thus, every condition, failure, or situation has to be anticipated, talked about, and designed for. That happens with the input from every party involved. The execution depends on the skill of the design team to communicate what is needed and the automation and controls contractor to methodically implement the knowledge into a program. 

Collins: When building new data centers, we are often asked how we can help support maximizing the amount of time the cooling system will operate in economized mode(s). Our focus and expertise in this area is to create predictable airflow patterns and maximize power density in the data hall by taking into account how load profiles will change over time. We also position our approach around giving engineers proven options based on results from similar customer applications and data driven through simulations, such as CFD modeling, when necessary.

Dagley: There are competing schools of thought on direct air cooling versus contained air cooling in data centers. Each can be the preferred choice for various applications, so the specification should be based on the uptime requirements, power density, geographic location, etc., but most importantly on the owner/operator’s needs. It’s important to work with a building controls and integration expert that has had success in implementing both design preferences.

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