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[Case Study] TierPoint Launches a New Data Center in 11 Weeks






TierPoint Launches a New Data Center in 11 Weeks (United States)

Customer Profile
TierPoint is a leading provider of cloud, colocation and managed services designed to help organizations improve business performance and manage risk. With corporate headquarters in St. Louis, TierPoint operates nearly 130,000 square feet of raised-floor data center space, across multiple state-of-the-art facilities located in Baltimore, Dallas, Oklahoma City, Spokane, Seattle and Tulsa. The company provides comprehensive data center solutions backed by the expertise of industry veterans. The Fisher Plaza 6th floor expansion project in Seattle added 10,000 square feet of raised floor space and 1.5 megawatts of 2N critical load to their existing data center.


Customer objectives

To meet customer demand, TierPoint needed to deploy more data center capacity in Seattle – and fast. Using the 6th floor of the Fisher Plaza building presented numerous challenges, including floor loading for new equipment, water delivery and distribution for cooling units, and retrofitting office space into a raised floor data center. To add to the complexity of the project, the city of Seattle has strict regulations and building codes that needed to be adhered to. To accommodate customer timelines, TierPoint needed to convert the existing 6th floor office space into a new raised-floor data center, with minimum N+1 redundancy across all critical systems, and have it powered in 11 weeks.

Some challenges with the 6th floor space at Fisher Plaza immediately presented themselves. Because Seattle is in an active seismic zone and the Fisher Plaza building is designed to sway during a seismic event as much as 10” in any given direction on the 6th floor, the structural engineers determined that there was going to be an issue with loading the floor full of heavy racks and UPS systems.

In addition to floor loading, a main concern was how much weight the building’s steel frame could support as it started moving from side-to-side (lateral load). The fact that the data center was on the 6th floor compounded the concern because of the leverage placed on the building at the end of the lever (the “water tower” effect). This limit presented a significant potential impact to TierPoint’s revenue as, without a creative solution, TierPoint would not be able to accommodate enough racks of customer equipment to make the space work financially. Also, accommodating the heaviest of the loads, the 18,000 lbs UPS modules, and maximizing the space that would be available to TierPoint’s customers would require complex and strategic equipment placement and orientation. 

The height of the 6th floor also presented a challenge for delivering chilled water to the Computer Room Air Handlers (CRAH). The existing plumbing wasn’t sufficient to deliver the volume of water needed to support the cooling equipment specified in the design. Additionally, the raised floor of the data center wouldn’t allow enough room to adequately distribute water and drain condensate without interfering with airflow.

These major challenges needed expedient resolution, and the tight timeline exacerbated the difficulties. The City of Seattle has a strict and lengthy permitting process that includes securing a firm appointment a month in advance to submit plans. If that appointment is missed, it could take another month to secure a meeting. That meant the construction plans had to be completed without extension or delays. The design team needed to meet the TierPoint’s expedited build, while working within the confines of the building limitations and Seattle building codes.

With a non-negotiable commissioning date, time was of the essence. TierPoint had worked with Schneider Electric Data Center Life Cycle in the past and once again turned to their trusted technical and construction partner for this complicated and time-sensitive design and build project.


Customer benefits

Fully integrated project delivery from a single company

Having a single point of contact for the project from start to finish was critical to the successful execution of the data center construction, installation, and start-up. Everyone on the Schneider Electric Data Center Life Cycle Services and the project team was pulled together efficiently.

Accelerated fast-track schedule for design and construction

Working closely with TierPoint, Hines, and the contractors on the project team, Schneider Electric Data Center Life Cycle Services was able to complete a final design within weeks instead of months. Completed construction plans were submitted to the City of Seattle Building Department a record setting 17 days after receiving the TierPoint design contract. With multiple contractors working concurrently, there was a tremendous amount of coordination and project management required to keep the project on time and on budget. Schneider Electric Data Center Life Cycle Services held weekly project meetings to coordinate the efforts of the various team members and address issues quickly.

Innovative design solutions to retrofit existing space

Through tireless structural analysis, the Schneider Electric Data Center Life Cycle Services team was able to identify that isolating the anchoring of only the heavy UPS Modules would mitigate the limited lateral loading challenges of the building’s 6-story steel frame and would make structural isolation of the rest of the new equipment and customer racks unnecessary.

The city electrical inspector was fully engaged throughout the design and final installation. Custom conduits and power distribution connections were developed to accommodate the challenge of moving the 18,000lbs UPS equipment to the 6th floor of the data center.

The design for the data center included a complete cooling solution - including sophisticated louvers replacing the building's existing exterior window system, plumbing for the CRAH units and drainage for the condensation, to apply the 1.5 megawatts of 2N critical power capacity data center and the city's building codes.

Working with McKinstry, the local mechanical engineer, Schneider Electric Data Center Life Cycle Services addressed several complications with the cooling infrastructure, including designing and submitting a custom fan wall system to “UL” for review and certification. Customized louver requirements, lack of condensate drainage, water volume limitations, and plumbing constraints required modifications to the overall design.

Energizing a new data center within 11 weeks

The 6th floor of Fisher Plaza had previously been used as office space and the construction team had to assist Hines with the removal of the remaining furnishing and fixtures before they could begin demolition and clearing of the 6th floor. "The normal timeline for a project this size would be at least 180 days, and that’s starting from a bare shell.” Darin Honodel, Director of Facilities at TierPoint explains. With all the constraints, Schneider Electric Data Center Life Cycle Services met the delivery date and TierPoint had the new data center energized on September 3rd, 2013 - just 11 weeks after executing the construction contract.

Customer testimonies(Verbatim)

“Schneider had an outstanding team from the architect on down.” Ron Taylor, Project Manager from McKinstry observed. “John Fithian [from Schneider Electric Data Center Life Cycle Services] kept everyone on task. Weekly design meetings insured everyone had answers to questions in a timely manner. Everyone on the team pulled together to make it happen and never said it couldn’t be done. Schneider Electric did an outstanding job coordinating the project.”

Implementation Methodology

Recognizing that time would be the toughest hurdle to overcome, Schneider Electric Data Center Life Cycle Services took the lead as the single-source design-build contractor for TierPoint, strategically enlisting the expertise of local organizations such as McKinstry Mechanical and Prime Electric. Both contractors knew the building and had participated in the original construction. Additionally, Schneider Electric Data Center Life Cycle Services engaged specialized experts to facilitate innovative solutions to some of the more unique challenges, providing a fully integrated build solution for TierPoint - including programming, design and engineering, construction and final integrated facility commissioning.

Two such specialized experts called in by Schneider Electric Data Center Life Cycle Services were Degenkolb Engineers and WorkSafe Technologies. Degenkolb Engineering designed an innovative solution for accommodating the heavy UPS equipment while not compromising the structural integrity of the building. WorkSafe was called in to custom design, fabricate and install ball bearing isolation platforms for the heavy UPS equipment that met the stringent Degenkolb Engineering specifications. The ISO pads would allow the UPS to sway as much as 20” in any direction effectively negating the weight of the 18,000lbs Symmetra PX 500kW UPS equipment during a seismic event.

Once installed on the ISO pads, the UPS equipment would remain in place while the building swayed underneath it. Without the added weight of the UPS equipment factored into the lateral building load during seismic activity, the entire structure would remain safely within the 10” tolerance while allowing TierPoint to have enough customer racks on the floor to address financial requirements.

As an active, multi-tenant building, Schneider Electric Data Center Life Cycle Services and other expert contractors in the project team had to make accommodations to avoid interruption of power and chilled water services to other tenants during construction. As an additional complication frequently encountered in retrofit projects, contingencies had to be made by Schneider Electric Data Center Life Cycle Services to work within existing control structures as the project progressed. With TierPoint’s tight security, electrical, and scheduling requirements, there wasn’t much room for compromise.


11 weeks

Schneider Electric differentiating values VS competitors

As one of the world’s largest energy management equipment manufacturers, and a design-build general contractor and MEP Engineering firm, Schneider Electric has tremendous resources at its disposal. This includes best in class in-house designers and engineers that developed innovative solutions to the unique challenges of the 6th floor space at Fisher Plaza. Additionally, the Schneider Electric team included their general contracting group of seasoned experts for procuring, building and commissioning data centers and mission critical facilities.


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