Upgrades Successful Through Careful Planning for Critical University Data Center

Project Highlights

  • Renovation and system replacements within an existing building
  • A/M/E/P/FP Services
  • Study, Programming, Master Planning, Design, Construction Documents through Construction Administration
  • Multi-phase Construction
  • 7,000 sf Project Area
  • All construction completed without system shut downs
  • 400V Power

University of California at Santa Barbara | North Hall Data Center | Santa Barbara, CA

The UCSB’s need for high performance computing required a substantial increase to footprint and power and cooling capacity within the existing data center required a complete renovation of an existing 5,000 sf operational data center to upgrade all systems – mechanical, electrical and architectural. One of the major challenges to the project was that all Campus connectivity was delivered through the existing data center. This included 911 emergency response, campus email and campus internet. All network equipment needed to remain operational throughout the project  or  the university could not continue to operate. Under this operational constraint our team needed to develop a data center renovation plan and critical system design for the remainder of the computer room that essentially demolished and reconfigured to support a new deployment of high performance computing, as well as critical administrative computing equipment for the university. Without a single disruption to campus service we were able to design an upgrade and complete system overhaul that included 2 MW of IT capacity for a variety of University needs. 

Like most universities, UCSB’s data center supports a diverse array of applications that have a wide window of reliability standards. To support this mix of applications in an efficient manner, a mixed-tier electrical system was incorporated, combining 400/230 V high density “N” distribution for high performance processing functions, and 208/120 V “2N” dual path UPS distribution for critical network, storage, and administrative computing functions.  This allowed the critical low density “business” applications the reliability they required while providing the less critical power intensive research systems a more cost effective less robust infrastructure. To save money, we utilized the campus chilled water system for primary cooling and incorporated a detailed control sequence and load shedding strategy to provide critical cooling through local chillers in the event of a campus loop outage.

Even though we made extensive upgrades to the electrical distribution system, including the addition of a new permanent diesel generator, transfer switch, pad mount transformer, and main distribution switchgear, our engineers were able to avoid the need for a planned outage by developing a series of phased cutovers, utilizing a portable diesel generator to provide temporary power as cutovers were made. The existing distribution was re-fed from the new electrical service, with the help of  and  coordination of UCSB campus personnel, the installing contractor, and equipment technicians. Like most university projects, success was driven by great communications and the involvement of all the major stakeholders.