Top design trends in data centers: HVAC, plumbing

An increasingly data-driven society demands advanced, high-performance data center facilities. Read on to learn the biggest HVAC and plumbing 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: What unusual or infrequently specified products or systems did you use to meet challenging cooling needs?

Tumber: There are a number of products that have been designed specifically for the data center market. Each project is unique; there is no one-size-fits-all solution. The unique technologies I have used on projects include evaporative cooling (direct and indirect), outdoor direct expansion units which use heat pipe, heat wheel or plate type heat exchanger for economization, liquid cooling, CRAC units and chillers with pumped refrigerant technology. These technologies have been deployed significantly over the past couple of years and are no longer considered unusual in the data center industry.

CSE: How have you worked with HVAC system or equipment design to increase a building’s energy efficiency?

Carré: We perform close coordination with the design team regarding equipment heat loss and efficiencies to allow for right-sizing HVAC equipment.

CSE: What best practices should be followed to ensure an efficient HVAC system is designed for a data center?

Anderson: The best practice is to provide the higher efficiency systems options with their costs, benefits, potential paybacks and recommendations to the client/owner. If the option has a viable operational cost benefit, without introducing potential downtime, this is money well invested and from my experience owners/developers really like that. The key to this is ensuring that data center uptime is not compromised. The customer dissatisfaction and future lease agreements are not matched with the utility cost savings for high efficiency if they are not reliable.

CSE: Have you incorporated liquid cooling into any recent projects?

Koukl: We have incorporated liquid cooling on a few projects and one recently with active rear door cooling and the ability to have water provided directly to the chip. One major factor to consider is water quality and the ability to meet the cooling solution manufacturer’s requirements for water quality, especially when evaluating a direct-to-chip solution. Another important consideration is water temperature, to ensure the water and coil are held above dew point. There are multiple strategies to employ to whether it is something designed and implemented on the project or is purchased from a vendor that provides all the packaged controls and equipment.