Top design trends in data centers: codes and standards

An increasingly data-driven society demands advanced, high-performance data center facilities. Read on to learn the biggest codes and standards challenges, emerging technologies and upcoming trends affecting data centers.

By Consulting-Specifying Engineer April 29, 2019


David Anderson, PE, LEED AP

Senior Mechanical Engineer, Principal

DLR Group



Drew Carré, PE

Senior Electrical Engineer

Kupper Engineering Inc.

Ambler, Pennsylvania


Terry G. Cleis Jr., PE, LEED AP

Vice President

Peter Basso Associates

Troy, Michigan


Matt Koukl, DCEP-G

Principal Project Manager, Mission Critical Market Leader

Affiliated Engineers Inc.

Madison, Wisconsin


Brian Rener, PE, LEED AP





Saahil Tumber, PE, HBDP, LEED AP

Technical Authority

Environmental Systems Design Inc.


CSE: Please explain some of the codes, standards and guidelines you commonly use during the project’s design process. Which codes/standards should engineers be most aware of? Are there new codes/standards in progress and if so, can you share some background?

Tumber: The commercial building codes, such as International Building Code, International Mechanical Codeand International Energy Conservation Codeare applicable to data centers. There are also several standards and publications from the Department of Energy, ASHRAE(e.g. Standard 90.1, Standard 90.4, TC 9.9 guidelines), U.S. Green Building Council, Environmental Protection Agency, NFPA, The Green Gridand others that provide pertinent information and guidelines for creating industry leading data center designs. Creative implementation of these codes and standards is important to meet the unique requirements of data centers.

Anderson: The ASHRAE Datacom Seriesis a good source to provide basic boundaries and considerations of systems, environments and energy efficiency. The Uptime Institutetier certification level is important knowledge to know what the project demands regarding redundancy.

We are seeing developers and owners pushing beyond the minimums to increase their return on investment and be more attractive to their customers. This provides opportunities for engineers to evaluate options and alternatives for owners to review and make informed decisions. This really creates a great teamwork approach to the design process as a whole.

Koukl: Beyond the obvious code-mandated requirements, engineers and owners should discuss best practice standards when creating the owner project requirements. The Uptime Institute, Telecommunications Industry Association TIA-942, ASHRAE TC 9.9 and The Green Grid are commonly cited standards. It is important that the team agree on strict interpretation of standards or what we call “guiding principles.” Oftentimes the budget, space constraints and values of the end user will already direct the design to follow the spirit of a standard within the practical limits. Clear understanding among all stakeholders is extremely important as the project moves through design, commissioning and operation.

CSE: What are some best practices to ensure that such buildings meet and exceed codes and standards?

Rener: The best way to ensure compliance is to utilize both third-party testing such has InterNational Electrical Testing Associationtesting and third-party commissioning.