Renovating Critical Environments

Projects renovating critical environments represent what one user called the equivalent of changing the engines of a plane while in the air. They require an attention to detail and project experience that is only available from a team with deep data center experience.

Integrated Design Group has significant experience planning, designing and helping implement projects in existing, operating data centers for many clients, including Highmark in Philadelphia, RBS Citizens in Rhode Island, Tufts University in the Boston area, UCSB in Santa Barbara, CA, and Thomson Reuters in St. Louis, MO  to name a few.  In each case, updating and expanding existing mechanical and electrical systems was undertaken while the facilities they serve remained operational. The key to these projects is attention to detail, strict validation of the as built condition and close coordination between the design team, the construction team and the operations team.

The work completed up front in the validation process is most critical and cannot be short changed. It is rare, or in fact virtually impossible, to find a facility of any kind that has been constructed and maintained exactly as the drawings indicate. Therefore, before a renovation to critical systems can take place an intensive validation of what is actually installed must take place. This involves the participation of the operations team, the design team and MEP subcontractors. All critical components must be traced back to confirm that they have been installed as drawn. If not, actual as-builts must be created and used as the base line for the new design.

Once designs are complete the same individuals who were involved in the validation should be involved in the development of phasing plans that need to include detailed process scripts and detailed contingency plans for completing the most critical cut-overs.  These scripts must be reviewed and signed off by all stakeholders to assure that nothing has been overlooked in the planning effort. Even when all the upfront work is done correctly it is common for unexpected challenges to arise during project implementation. Therefore, overall project awareness and strong interdisciplinary communication is critical for success.  

To demonstrate this, it is best to show specific project challenges and lessons learned from past projects.  At Brown, as construction began and the electrical contractor began to trace and chase wiring for the EPO system, it was discovered that it was somehow unexpectedly connected to locations in distant parts of the building.  In order to continue construction in a foolproof manner, a new EPO was installed before the old system was disabled and removed.  At Highmark, during the validation effort, a number of inconsistencies were uncovered including sprinkler piping valving (single vs. double interlock), ceiling grid location, and chilled water valves. Each of these, to different degrees would have been a cause for unforeseen added cost at a minimum and a services disruption in a worst case scenario.






Critical Environment Renovation Clients:

  • Highmark
  • Citizens Bank
  • State Street Corporation
  • Fidelity Investments
  • Thomson Reuters
  • Digital Realty
  • Telex
  • Equinix
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Brown University
  • Partners Healthcare