Good Planning and Targeted Upgrades Economically Extends Life of Critical University Data Center

Project Highlights

  • Renovation and System Upgrades within an Existing Building
  • A/M/E/P/FP Services
  • Study, Programming, Master Planning, Design, Construction Documents thorough Construction Administration
  • Multi-phase construction
  • 8,500 sf Project Area
  • 4,700 sf Raised Floor Area
  • All Construction completed Without Unscheduled System Shut Downs
  • Planned 40kW Growth Over Ten Years (75kW Day 1 through 475kW Final)




Brown University | Watson CIT Data Center | Providence, RI

We knew something was amiss when we discovered that while some CRAC units were cooling, others were heating – simultaneously, and that the EPO button wasn’t connected to anything! 

As with many Universities, the legacy data center at Brown had evolved over many years. When ID first visited it, the staff was unable to maintain the mechanical and electrical systems except during scheduled shutdowns that were getting harder to schedule every year. Because of the age of the equipment, there was also a real fear was fear that shut down equipment  would not be able to be re-started.  The layout of the white space was random without clear hot aisle cold aisle configuration.  The data hall was shared with delivery, storage, and administrative functions, and cluttered with boxes and maintenance equipment, piled on ancient raised floor tiles. Thus growth and change were a distinct challenge. 

The University embarked on a master planning effort to develop a strategy for upgrading the facility. Brown initially worked with one of our competitors who advised the university that the existing data center could not be renovated and a new data center that could cost as much as twenty million dollars needed to be constructed. This was not an option for Brown for both schedule and budget reasons. The ID team was sought out for a second opinion.

ID was called in to re-examine the problem. We worked closely with the university to develop a multi-phase plan to renovate the existing data center to meet short term needs and also established at ten-year growth plan that would add the projected additional capacity in the future.  ID used a modular scalable design strategy that could deploy 100KW to 200KW increments of MEP infrastructure on a load on demand basis as needed to meet future anticipated needs. The upgraded infrastructure was installed in such a way that future expansions could take place without the need to schedule shutdowns of the data center.

Ultimately the white space was reorganized into a hot aisle cold aisle configuration, and a redundant cooling loop and redundant UPS system were added. The raised floor configuration proved so efficient that the university was able to carve out a space mid project to support a new 7x24 life safety command center that could take advantage or the expanded redundant power and cooling systems.

The project proved successful in many ways. The initial capital outlay and implementation schedule was a fraction of what was initially estimated for a new facility. However, the best result was that due to changing technologies and other factors, the projected power growth has not occurred to date. The costs for that additional capacity has been avoided in full. 

In the years since the first phases were constructed, an area of the data hall was given to high performance computing that could utilize the chilled water loop and be constructed again while daily operations continued.