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Morrison Hershfield project profile: TOR1 Wholesale Data Center Conversion

TOR1 Wholesale Data Center Conversion, Vaughan, ON, Canada

By Morrison Hershfield August 13, 2019
Ink room demolition planning at TOR1, the former Toronto Star newspaper printing facility.

Engineering firm: Morrison Hershfield

2019 MEP Giants rank: 65

Project: TOR1 Wholesale Data Center Conversion

Location: Vaughan, ON, Canada

Building type: Data center

Project type: Existing building retrofit

Engineering services: Automation, controls; electrical, power; energy, sustainability; fire, life safety; HVAC, mechanical; lighting; plumbing, piping

Project timeline: September 2016 to July 2018

MEP/FP budget: $2,800,000

Commissioning budget: $1,000,000


Morrison Hershfield assisted Digital Realty with repurposing the iconic Toronto Star newspaper printing facility into “TOR1,” the first mega-scale wholesale data center in Canada. The facility delivers top efficiency and reliability to the globe’s largest companies, essential for meeting the increasing demand for wholesale data center capacity in Toronto,. TOR1 includes 23 computer rooms spread across 21,000 m2 (226,000 SF) with a critical power capacity of up to 46 MW and is engineered to achieve an annualized Power Usage Effectiveness of 1.25. Phase 1, completed in May 2018, consists of 12 computer rooms and provides for 24 MW of critical load capacity, expandable to 60MW.

The TOR1 conversion project involved aggressive efficiency, flexibility and schedule targets. The inherent challenge was to design and construct a data center with an aggressive PUE target, without sacrificing flexibility or reliability, in an existing building that was originally constructed for a much different operating purpose — all in 24 months with a $200 million budget.

Efficient processes and superior technical solutions were designed and implemented to meet the expedited schedule and repurpose the existing facility without compromising any aspects of design or function.

Kyoto and Vertiv rooftop cooling units at TOR1

Speed to Market: Achieving the client’s critical objectives within a very rigid schedule was a key challenge. There is a common misconception that it is faster and cheaper to retrofit an existing building than to build new, however this is rarely the case. TOR1 had an extremely aggressive schedule for a project of this magnitude and required strong project, budget, schedule and risk management along with exceptional collaboration among team members to ensure successful project delivery.

Energy Efficiency: Power cost is by far the largest expense for wholesale data center operators, considering the power consumed and the cooling costs associated with critical load consumption. Digital Realty wanted to maximize the energy efficiency of the cooling system in order to achieve an uncompromising PUE of 1.25. This high level of efficiency allows the owner to offer a highly reliable wholesale solution with excellent efficiency resulting in bottom line savings for clients. The team designed a highly efficient, Kyoto-based cooling solution.

Reliability: Unplanned downtime has financial repercussions, as well as the potential to impact Digital Realty’s reputation. An effective power protection strategy was required to protect against utility outages and avoid data center downtime and the associated lost revenue. The team jointly developed a complex but highly flexible and reliable electrical distribution system for computer room critical loads.

Flexibility: Each of Digital Realty’s customers has different needs. Some customers’ servers use more electricity (more dense), some less. Flexibility in density allows the owner to accommodate greater ranges of customer needs. Digital Realty is targeting mega scale clients in this market and 2.0 — 6.0MW per suite was their target based on market analysis. The flexibility of the system allows them to sell in their “sweet spot.”

Load bank and transformers at southwest corner of TOR1.


To maximize speed to market, the team designed based on critical path (for material and equipment). The project plan divided work into logical segments to facilitate parallel design and delivery efforts, enabling the team to work around

delays caused by a more lengthy approvals process for “outside” equipment by moving ahead with the “inside” work, like demolition, cleaning and reinforcing steel. The design team worked closely with the constructor and produced drawings to be sequentially tendered for work that was permitted, in an order that allowed base building long lead items to be released, e.g., base building structural re-enforcement drawings were advanced in the critical path to allow for early shop drawing review, constructor coordination and field install.

A “Ring Bus” switchgear-based solution, offers high speed fault clearing relays and capability to automatically add or remove generators required by the system.

TOR1 is flexible. The overall design features 23 computer rooms ranging in size from 8,600 to 13,000 SF. Phase 1 included 12 computer rooms and provides for 24 MW of critical load capacity, expandable to 60MW. Rooms share 4MW of power infrastructure and accommodate power capacities between 1.0 and 3.0 MW each and have N to 2N redundancy capability at room or infrastructure level, with a power density range of approximately 100 to 300 watts per SF. This gives customers the flexibility to expand and reconfigure in the same computer room as technologies evolve and power density increases. The open platform enables customers to define and implement their data center strategies and needs, with an inclusive selection of service providers, levels of redundancy, power configurations and connectivity options.

TOR1 is reliable. To protect against utility outages and avoid data center downtime and associated lost revenue, a complex but highly flexible and reliable electrical distribution system was developed for computer room critical loads. A unique method of distributing power to the facility was implemented, with a switchgear based solution that forms a “ring bus.” The protection offered consists of high speed fault clearing relays, with the capability to automatically add or remove generators as required by the system. Morrison Hershfield’s team worked with Digital Realty and equipment manufacturers to ensure that this complex distribution concept as constructed and installed met their expectations. Support continued through construction, testing and commissioning.

TOR1 is energy efficient. Engineered to deliver a class leading PUE of 1.25 annualized at full capacity, this high level of efficiency allows the owner to offer a highly reliable wholesale solution with bottom line savings for clients. Data centers of this size typically consume a lot of energy and use thousands of gallons of water for cooling, so maximizing the efficiency of the cooling system was critical. To achieve this, a Kyoto based cooling solution was designed. A detailed analysis illustrating the ROI and total cost of ownership of this system compared to other technologies and for all equipment in the facility that draw power, was undertaken to help guide decision making. A data center with a class leading PUE and a cooling system design that uses no water is a significant achievement.

Corridor with overhead services, servicing multiple computer rooms.

Morrison Hershfield