Trends, changes in data center control system design

Several trends are pushing the control systems in data centers in different directions

By Consulting-Specifying Engineer June 14, 2022
Courtesy: CFE Media

Respondents:

  • Bill Kosik, PE, CEM, BEMP, Senior Energy Engineer, DNV, Oak Brook, Illinois
  • Matt Koukl, DCEP, Principal, Market Leader Mission Critical, Affiliated Engineers Inc., Madison, Wisconsin
  • Kenneth Kutsmeda, PE, LEED AP, Global Technology Leader – Mission Critical, Jacobs, Philadelphia
  • Ben Olejniczak, PE, Senior Project Mechanical Engineer, Environmental Systems Design Inc., Chicago
  • Brian Rener, PE, LEED AP, Mission Critical Leader, Smith Group, Chicago
  • Jonathan Sajdak, PE, Senior Associate/Fire Protection Engineer, Page, Houston

Bill Kosik, PE, CEM, BEMP, Senior Energy Engineer, DNV, Oak Brook, Illinois – Matt Koukl, DCEP, Principal, Market Leader Mission Critical, Affiliated Engineers Inc., Madison, Wisconsin – Kenneth Kutsmeda, PE, LEED AP, Global Technology Leader – Mission Critical, Jacobs, Philadelphia – Ben Olejniczak, PE, Senior Project Mechanical Engineer, Environmental Systems Design Inc., Chicago – Brian Rener, PE, LEED AP, Mission Critical Leader, Smith Group, Chicago – Jonathan Sajdak, PE, Senior Associate/Fire Protection Engineer, Page, Houston

From your experience, what systems within data centers are benefiting from automation that previously might not have?

Ben Olejniczak: Generally, our mechanical systems have benefited from automation. We’ve designed around programmable logic controller-based controls, which enhance the reliability and resiliency of the controls system. Recent systems that we’ve deployed have the capability to automatically optimize water usage or power usage based on facility operations personnel inputs. This allows our systems to operate in the most efficient manner based on the ambient conditions throughout the year. Metering for power and water use also provides clients with real-time insights into how efficient their facilities are operating and can even publish that data for the public to view in real time as well.

Brian Rener: Real time energy performance and tuning, along with predicative maintained and system trending are increasingly being used.

Bill Kosik: One concept that is still being developed, is a power system that will take 360-degree look at the electrical infrastructure. On a micro level, for example, the system will detect possible faults or voltage drops in the data center power distribution, but on a macro level the system will move workloads to other facilities based on electrical costs, weather and climate (providing opportunities for free cooling). The other part of this type of monitoring and control is that will also be able to choose power sources utility, on-site renewables, battery storage, etc.

Matt Koukl: Automation of systems varies across the industry depending on scale and complexity of the systems. The firm believes additional gains can be made focusing on sustainability and reliability of systems. The distinct types of control automation, whether mechanical or electrical systems, provide additional insights for facility and system operations. With the adoption of artificial intelligence and machine learning, system operations and predictive operations will become standard for deployment and operation of these complex facilities.

Cloud Condo 5-megawatt data center building block. Courtesy: Jacobs

How is building information modeling being used in data center design?

Ben Olejniczak: Some of our clients have gone as far as to standardize equipment models and the embedded information (Revit parameters) that gets assigned to said models. In cases where multiple firms work together to manage a client’s project portfolio, this brings a much-needed level of consistency both from a modeling and BIM-management perspective. Moreover, these models can be integrated with the building management system and information can be stored and available for reference by facility management personnel once the building is turned over.

Matt Koukl: BIM is still used in the developmental stages and is still evolving to meet the needs of various owner operators. Today, BIM has not been fully used to its full potential to enable owner operators to make full use of the metadata contained within the various families. While the end goal is to get to a state where the model is a true beneficial tool for owner operators managing and operating their facilities the adoption on usage is ongoing.

Brian Rener: Today’s data center teams include multiple design partners, client teams, construction managers and subcontractors. The use of BIM360 (cloud-based BIM) allows these extensive teams to collaborate more effectively and real time. In addition to improve constructability and shorten lead times, subcontractors are often getting involved in design assist to produce some of the final construction drawings.

 


Consulting-Specifying Engineer