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The benefits of modular aisle containment systems

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The demand for data centre capacity is growing at an exponential rate and the industry faces increasing complexity in design and construction to keep pace.

Prefabricated solutions, manufactured off-site, are helping to provide competitive advantage, offering faster delivery times and cost certainty to data centre operators.

From cutting metal at various angles, drilling, layout and levelling, installation of aisle containment systems can be both a time-consuming and complex task. This complexity can be increased further when accommodating higher ceiling heights or mechanical obstructions, as well as factoring in any congestion caused with other trades on-site.

Coupled with the huge lengths of cable runs that need to be routed and supported, operators are looking for every advantage they can to build at speed without compromising on quality or increasing cost.

Speeding up installation

When considering the benefits of off-site construction, it is important to establish the breadth of the design and build service being offered. Modular design can be defined in several ways and, while component parts may have been cut and prepared off-site, some designs may still require significant on-site works, such as welding, in order to complete the installation.

If the intention is to limit, or even eliminate traditional on-site stick-building methods, then it is important to ensure that the modular design chosen has been selected to achieve this outcome. Removing as many of the tasks associated with on-site construction as possible is vital if the project is to achieve the fast turnaround promised.

Avoiding rework

Industry averages suggest that rework can cost between five to nine per cent of the overall project cost.

Operators should consider the supplier’s quality credentials to provide assurance of repeatability. Off-site manufacturing will typically involve specialised equipment, such as precision cutting machines and automated welding systems. This can provide assurances that the system is built in a quality-controlled manufacturing facility, with each component cut to the desired length to ensure accurate, repeatable results.

Batch control is also a consideration, providing assurance of quality and traceability back to the steel manufacturer in the event of any issues.

Delivering cost certainty

Speed of installation is only one part of the equation. Operators are looking for greater assurances over cost too.

According to a 2020 report by global engineering and consulting firm Arup, off-site construction can result in cost savings of up to 20% for data centre projects. It cites factors such as reduced labour costs, shortened project timelines, improved quality control, and reduced waste.

Traditional on-site construction can result in unexpected costs due to delays, rework, and the need for additional resources. For example, with component parts prefabricated off-site, on-site labour can be reduced, which often represents a significant proportion of the overall project budget.

Waste reduction is another key benefit. Because the component parts are prepared off-site, they can be cut and assembled with much greater precision, minimising waste as well as the associated disposal costs.

Furthermore, using off-site manufacture can provide greater flexibility in terms of project budgeting. Because costs are more predictable, operators can more easily adjust their budgets and resources to meet changing project needs. This can be especially important in the data centre industry, where the need for capacity can change rapidly.

Arup’s report also notes that off-site construction can help to mitigate some of the risks associated with on-site construction, such as safety concerns, by taking the traditional build elements away from the busy data centre environment to a quality-control manufacturing plant.

Standardising the design to streamline the supply chain

The length of time to project completion is not only impacted by the speed at which installation can be completed on-site.

Working with providers to standardise designs and equipment also has the added benefit of reducing potential supply chain delays. With multiple orders being handled simultaneously, it is likely that the manufacturer will be purchasing stock ahead of schedule, making it easier to handle orders ‘on demand.’

In addition, intelligent, repeatable, modular designs will also be engineered to minimise the number of different components parts required; another positive factor which can enable a faster order-to-install completion.

In conclusion

The use of standardised, prefabricated aisle containment solutions can lead to economies of scale, reducing the cost per unit and making the overall project more cost-effective. Standardising designs and equipment can also streamline the supply chain and reduce potential delays, further contributing to cost savings.

Coupled with the reduction in build time and improved quality control, operators can realise significant improvements.

Picture of Daniel Tew
Daniel Tew
UK & Ireland Sales Director for Atkore Unistrut

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