They may look like uninteresting and often windowless boxes from the outside, but custom-built data centres are home to some of the most mission-critical equipment and systems on the planet.
As storage venues for digital financial information and sensitive personal details, and serving as the backbones of operating systems for industries ranging from air-traffic control to hotels, it is vital that data centres are designed and built to exacting specifications. Importantly, when operational, data centres must be secure and ensure a high level of relevance.
“It isn’t every construction company that can take on the challenging task of constructing a data centre,” says James Lee, director at Hsin Chong Construction
Hsin Chong is a forerunner in the area of data centre construction, having built its first data centre in Hong Kong in 2006. Lee says the company, which employs more than 2,000 staff, has built up a comprehensive team of experts in data centre construction.
“The expertise needed to build a data centre is much higher than for any other building, except a hospital,” Lee says.
Key to the construction of a data centre is the building and installation sequence. Lee says that this is an area in which Hsin Chong professionals have developed specific management and implementation skills.
“Look beneath the raised floor and in the ceilings and there are layers and layers of wiring and utilities. Our experts make sure these are constructed in the correct order,” he says.
To ensure reliability, data centres are fitted with double and triple electrical supplies and back-ups. The structures must also be waterproof, dust-proof and, in some cases, bomb-proof. “There is no room for any errors or oversight at any stage,” says Joseph Fung, managing director of Hsin Chong Aster Building Services.
Fung explains that an added complexity of building data centres in Hong Kong is that the installation of sensitive IT equipment often takes place at the same time as construction work, so that clients can commence operations as early as possible. “We have had to perfect ways of keeping data halls free from dust and water while we work in what is frequently a dirty environment,” he says.