Focus on data centers: Codes and standards

Designing efficient and effective data centers and mission critical facilities is a top priority for consulting engineers. Engineers share suggestions and feedback on data center codes and standards.



  • Cyrus Gerami, PE, LEED, CxA, Associate, Senior Project Engineer/Manager, exp Global Inc., Maitland, Fla.
  • Kerr Jonstone, IEng, MIET, Senior Electrical Engineer, CH2M Hill, Glasgow, Scotland 
  • Keith Lane, PE, RCDD/NTS, LC, LEED AP, President, Lane Coburn & Assocs., Bothell, Wash. 
  • James McEnteggart, PE, Vice President, Primary Integration Solutions Inc., Charlotte, N.C.
  • Robert M. Menuet, PE, Senior Principal, GHT Ltd., Arlington, Va. 
  • Brian Rener, PE LEED AP, Electrical Platform Leader and Quality Assurance Manager, M+W Group, Chicago, IL.

Codes & Standards

CSE: What codes, standards, or guidelines do you prefer to use as a guide as you work on these facilities?

Menuet: In addition to jurisdiction-mandated building codes, I use ASHRAE Technical Committee 9.9 (TC9.9) publications, white papers from the Uptime Institute and other industry groups, and at GHT, we have also developed our own standards to guide our project designs.

Johnstone: Notwithstanding local codes applicable to the location of the data center, design standards and documents which we refer to are ASHRAE TC9.9, Telecommunication Industry Assn. (TIA) 942, Code of Conduct on Data Centres Energy Efficiency, BREEAM for Data Centers, client design guides, and client- and industry-driven tier classifications.

Gerami: ASHRAE is the primary standard, followed by other related industry standards and publications such as ANSI and LEED.

CSE: How have Energy Star, ASHRAE, The Green Grid, etc., affected your work on mission critical facilities and data centers? What are some positive/negative aspects of these guides?

Gerami: There is a need for more integration of efforts and publications. Codes rely on the research and recommendations from the industry. Sometimes the published data are in conflict or outdated.

Johnstone: ASHRAE TC 9.9 has opened opportunities to use a broader range of cooling solutions; however, these are not applicable for all projects due to client constraints and risk-averse industries (banking/ financial). As these cooling technologies become mainstream, solutions will focus on energy efficiency.

Menuet: The Green Grid led the way, developing the first accepted metric for data centers: PUE. ASHRAE is addressing critical environmental conditions and system configuration issues with manufacturers. One challenge presented by ASHRAE guidelines is that when initially developed (prior to TC 9.9), they were very commercial office building-centric, and it was difficult to apply them to data centers. The development of TC9.9 has created useful guidance and tools for mission critical facility designers.

CSE: Which code/standard proves to be most challenging in such facilities?

Rener: We have found implementing ASHRAE’s recommended environmental criteria requires commitments from IT and the data equipment suppliers to operate at elevated temperature and humidity levels. This is often difficult to obtain.

Johnstone: Planning constraints can prove challenging in particular with reference to renewable technologies. In the UK/Europe, cooling technology and efficiency is often limited to air cooled due to risk aversion to water-cooled technologies.

Menuet: The recent applicability of the energy efficiency standards in ASHRAE 90.1 to data centers has been challenging. As stated previously, data center cooling system designs and equipment have been focused on availability and durability. Energy-efficient operation has been added to the mix.

Gerami: Energy codes and general building codes and standards cannot effectively address unique challenges and characteristics of high-powered data centers. A separate code based on annualized PUE should be developed.

No comments
The Top Plant program honors outstanding manufacturing facilities in North America. View the 2013 Top Plant.
The Product of the Year program recognizes products newly released in the manufacturing industries.
The Engineering Leaders Under 40 program identifies and gives recognition to young engineers who...
A cool solution: Collaboration, chemistry leads to foundry coat product development; See the 2015 Product of the Year Finalists
Raising the standard: What's new with NFPA 70E; A global view of manufacturing; Maintenance data; Fit bearings properly
Sister act: Building on their father's legacy, a new generation moves Bales Metal Surface Solutions forward; Meet the 2015 Engineering Leaders Under 40
Cyber security cost-efficient for industrial control systems; Extracting full value from operational data; Managing cyber security risks
Drilling for Big Data: Managing the flow of information; Big data drilldown series: Challenge and opportunity; OT to IT: Creating a circle of improvement; Industry loses best workers, again
Pipeline vulnerabilities? Securing hydrocarbon transit; Predictive analytics hit the mainstream; Dirty pipelines decrease flow, production—pig your line; Ensuring pipeline physical and cyber security
Upgrading secondary control systems; Keeping enclosures conditioned; Diagnostics increase equipment uptime; Mechatronics simplifies machine design
Designing positive-energy buildings; Ensuring power quality; Complying with NFPA 110; Minimizing arc flash hazards
Building high availability into industrial computers; Of key metrics and myth busting; The truth about five common VFD myths

Annual Salary Survey

After almost a decade of uncertainty, the confidence of plant floor managers is soaring. Even with a number of challenges and while implementing new technologies, there is a renewed sense of optimism among plant managers about their business and their future.

The respondents to the 2014 Plant Engineering Salary Survey come from throughout the U.S. and serve a variety of industries, but they are uniform in their optimism about manufacturing. This year’s survey found 79% consider manufacturing a secure career. That’s up from 75% in 2013 and significantly higher than the 63% figure when Plant Engineering first started asking that question a decade ago.

Read more: 2014 Salary Survey: Confidence rises amid the challenges

Maintenance and reliability tips and best practices from the maintenance and reliability coaches at Allied Reliability Group.
The One Voice for Manufacturing blog reports on federal public policy issues impacting the manufacturing sector. One Voice is a joint effort by the National Tooling and Machining...
The Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals an organization devoted...
Join this ongoing discussion of machine guarding topics, including solutions assessments, regulatory compliance, gap analysis...
IMS Research, recently acquired by IHS Inc., is a leading independent supplier of market research and consultancy to the global electronics industry.
Maintenance is not optional in manufacturing. It’s a profit center, driving productivity and uptime while reducing overall repair costs.
The Lachance on CMMS blog is about current maintenance topics. Blogger Paul Lachance is president and chief technology officer for Smartware Group.