January 2006, Revised March 2008
How to design a good server room
Follow Server Room Standards or Get A Consultant!
News! There are standards for constructing server rooms and BicSi documents some of the best standards. The manual isn't cheap nor is taking the time to read and understand the material so that you can apply it properly but the rewards are many if you do. If your not willing to invest the time or the cash for the BicSi Manual then you should think about getting a designer who has.
A recent project during which Amik Technology designed and supervised the construction of a server room for a local High School yielded some points to share and taught me the value of these tried and true rules.
At the beginning of a project design team members are asked to state requirements, core values, and concerns. These design parameters are then documented on room data sheets and create a functional description for spaces that a architect will take and arrange into a building. The room data sheets are to be shared with all concerned parties.
The architectural firm creates a initial design and then proceeds to massage the building size and functional components until all parties are satisfied and until the building fits within the budget. In the process of achieving the layout, these core value statements can get compromised.
One such design recommendation for server rooms is no penetrations through the floor above. Seems simple but the ventilation gang love to run ductwork through your space because it is out of sight and you have left lots of clear headroom with no ceiling as per the standards. Further server rooms are often close to mechanical rooms and are typically centered in the building to facilitate a balanced network design. Invariably that ventilation design team with a very small harmless duct changes and changes the design until they have a large duct and finally they decide to create a riser to the next floor. "It is the only place it can go" claims the Architect.
So the day after $10k of UPS was installed what happens? The plumber is commissioning a toilet not even directly above the server room. See the blue tarp... Yes water falls through the crack between the ductwork and the cement floor. Luck had it that the problem below was quickly spotted and that tarp was used to save the day.
In an industrial environment floor penetrations are designed with a 4 inch curb around the penetration. This doesn't seem to be the case in commercial building design unless of course if you demand it when the ventilation gang comes to ask for that duct run. Its OK though because washrooms have that flooring that curbs up the wall right? No not when the contractor doesn't use that product but substitutes vinyl curb like the strip showing in the back of the server room.
Following the flood the client insisted all the flooring be change for vinyl that curbs up the wall in all the rooms around the floor penetration. Further a hood was also to be installed under the ductwork to divert any leakage that might occur inside the wall or from further above. In my opinion they cost themselves a lot of extra money and have increased risk because they cut corners in the first place.
The server room did turn out fantastic, yes there are things we have learned and did change on the next project, but 90% of IT professionals would kill for a server room like this one!
So when your in the heat of design remember to stay on top of what all the other trades are doing and make sure that they all know what your design requirements are. Note in commercial building construction many things are field run. This requires site supervision and communication with all trades. You may elect to stay away from the core of the building to avoid temptation of mechanical system conflicts. Lastly drawing revisions are rarely done more commonly work instructions and change notices are all that are used to document design changes so keep an eye on all that affect your server room.
Amik Technology would be pleased to assist your organization in providing a design spec for your new server room. An exact specification needs to take into account the type of facility, proposed equipment, life span of the building, and many other concerns. You should involve a highly experienced IT person to ensure you have all the bases covered.
These are some of the elements that Amik together with the customers IT staff specified for a recent job. Others will apply depending on the the complete function of the room. For instance if it is designated an entrance facility (ie. do the telco services terminate directly in this room).
If you would like a copy of this specification with heights, thicknesses, temperatures and humidity numbers in the document contact Amik Technology we would be pleased to assist. If you can use this information as is please show your thanks by checking out our sponsored link in the Google Ad Section below.
Server Room Specification
A - Server Room Construction
• Specify the minimum clearance or room height
• Speicfy the size. Note there are minimum sizes based on the square footage of the facility
• Specify that there NOT be a false ceiling
• Specify minimum door opening with no sill
• It is highly recommended that the door enter from the Hall.
• Specify the use of tile or static free flooring
• Specify the provision of a lock to restrict access
• Specify plywood backing and thickness for all walls.
B - Server Room Environment Control
HVAC to provide constant temperature and humidity control in degrees C and the Relative Humidity (RH) based on the standards for active or passive components. Note there are specific allowable ranges.
Specify the minimum number of air changes per hour, and spec Positive Pressure to reduce dust.
Calculate the cooling in cubic meters per hour of 12 C cool air based on the number of 20 A circuits. You may also want to calculate the expected equipment BTU output.
Intake and exhaust of HVAC at 2.6m above finished floor (AFF)
Need for a secondary cooling system and/or temperature alarm system. NOTE air conditioning systems will freeze in the winter if it is cold enough.
C - Server Room Fire Suppression Concerns
wire cage over sprinkler heads
Dry system or wet system with drainage trough to avoid leaks and condensation damage
Two coats fire retardant white paint on walls and /or drywall over plywood
Fire stop all sleeves and conduit
D - Flooding
Location to be high and dry or racks curbed to prevent flood damage
No penetration through ceiling or water sources above
E - Lighting
Specify the Min Ft candles @ 1 meter AFF as per the bicsi standard
Specify fixture locations
Specify minimum lighting height above finished floor
F - Electrical
Branch circuits be 20A
Grounding All equipment and cables grounded
Floor grounding if anti-static selected
Specify the power panel for the room
Separate convenience electrical for power tools at set intervals around room
Convenience power be visibly marked
Data power minimum 2 duplex plugs 3 wire 120vac, additional as per spec and room expectations
Specify 240 VAC as required
Separate power for AC unit? or potential AC unit
G - Controlled special purpose space
Telecommunication rooms are recommended to be dedicated to the function. Unrelated equipment prohibited, this includes ductwork, piping, and building electrical
H - Risers (not specified )
I - Tray system (not specified)