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Facebook’s prefab data center concept aims to slash construction time in half

The tech giant's newly developed Rapid Deployment Data Center concept utilizes modular and Lean design principles to streamline planning and construction.

August 04, 2014 |
In May, Facebook broke ground on an expansion to its data center campus in Lule

Less than a year after opening its ultra-green, hydropowered data center facility in Luleå, Sweden, Facebook is back at it in Mother Svea with yet another novel approach to data center design. In May, the tech giant broke ground on an expansion to its Luleå facility, which is rated as one of the most energy-efficient data centers in the world, with an average power usage effectiveness (PUE) of 1.05. 

With Luleå 2, the company expects to achieve the same energy performance, but with a construction and deployment schedule that is roughly half its typical data center project. To do so, the Building Team is implementing Facebook’s newly developed Rapid Deployment Data Center (RDDC) concept, which utilizes modular and Lean design principles to streamline planning and construction, reduce the amount of materials, and create facilities that are more site-agnostic, according to Marco Magarelli, AIA, Architect, Datacenter R&D with Facebook. 

“By deploying pre-manufactured assemblies, a majority of the components can be used interchangeably,” wrote Magarelli in a recent blog post on the RDDC concept. “It’s our hope that by standardizing the designs of our component assemblies, much like we do with OCP servers, we can deploy a unitized data center into almost any region in the world faster, leaner, and more cost effectively.”

Developed through the Facebook-initiated Open Compute Project, which aims to crowdsource data center design, the RDDC approach relies on two core prefab concepts:

Chassis assembly method. Pre-assembled steel frames 12 feet wide and 40 feet long serve as the “chassis,” on which the vital data center components—cable trays, power busways, containment panels, lighting, etc.—are bolted in a factory, much like an auto assembly line. The chassis are shipped to the site and mounted atop steel columns. The chassis are attached end to end to create the typical 60-foot-long cold aisle, with 10 feet of aisle space at each end. This series of connected chassis forms a “canopy,” under which the server racks reside.  

“Unlike containerized solutions, which are a full volumetric approach that includes a floor, this idea focuses solely on the framework that exists above the racks, to avoid shipping the empty space that will eventually be occupied by the racks,” said Magarelli.

Flat-pack assemblies. This Ikea-like approach neatly packs the walls and ceiling panels into standard, 8-foot modules that are easily transportable to a site on a flatbed trailer without requiring special permits for wide loads. Standard building products like metal studs and preassembled, unitized containment panels are then erected on the site and are fully self-supporting. 

The ceiling panels use Epicore metal deck product, which spans the 12-foot width of the cold aisle and racks. This serves the additional duty of carrying the loads of the trays, power bus, and light fixtures below it using a proprietary hanger clip for the threaded rods, according to Magarelli.

“Careful attention was paid to minimizing the number of unique components,” he wrote. “For example, 364 identical wall panels are used in each data hall.”

For more on Facebook’s Rapid Deployment Data Center method, visit: www.opencompute.org/blog/faster-leaner-smarter-better-data-centers.

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