Danny Horton says he’s been on job sites as long as he’s been old enough to hold a screwdriver. While he was growing up his father owned an electrical contracting company – yet instead of joining the family business, Horton first studied law and music for a time at Highline Community College before enrolling in an electrical apprenticeship.
He immediately fell in love with the industry.
“Electrical work looked like the most glamorous part of construction,” Horton says. “There’s also an immediate satisfaction. You flip the switch, the lights turn on, and you know you did your job.”
He entered the trade at an exciting time, when the template for the data centers that power the modern digital world were still being created.
“There weren’t data centers yet — there were smatterings of what the industry would become,” he says. “In 1995, I worked for a contractor who was building a facility for Microsoft, which was still a fairly new company at the time. The building only had four racks and an air conditioning unit but was a precursor to today’s modern data centers.”
After almost three decades spent building data centers for organizations such as Microsoft, Meta, Amazon and the federal government, Horton says the basic principles of a data centers remain the same while the technology that powers them has only become more complex.
Horton leverages his eye for detail to build data centers that meet the most exacting performance specifications.
Most of the data centers he’s helped build are known as “five nines” facilities, which means they are designed for 99.999% uptime. Over the course of a year, a five nines data center will only be offline for a little over five minutes.
That level of reliability requires sophisticated and powerful backup systems for every part of the structure. For instance, data centers are equipped with diesel power generators that turn on in the event of a power outage.
“The most commonly used diesel generator is 2,500 kW (2.5 MW), and takes about 13 seconds to spin up,” says Horton. “So a five nines project needs a battery-powered UPS (uninterruptable power supply) that can power the critical components of the data center for that interval.”
To help his team build data centers that meet these requirements, early in his career Horton realized the importance of following the Method of Procedure or MOP for every job.
“An MOP is basically a to-do list on steroids,” he says. “You draft it as a contractor and send it to the operations team. Then you meet and go through all the steps. You also have backup and backout procedures.”
Use of tools like the MOP has helped Horton build a record of success in the high-paced world of data center construction. One of his proudest achievements is a major greenfield data center build in Cheyenne, Wyoming.
“Basically, Microsoft dropped us in the middle of a pasture and asked us to build a data center in under 18 months and for a specific budget,” he says. “Fortunately, I had a great team that worked collaboratively and the project in the middle of the pasture turned out to be the first Microsoft data center built on-time and on-budget.”
As a member of PCL Construction’s data center and mission critical team, Horton is excited to leverage his knowledge of data centers on the owner side to help his new clients build success.
“I’ll be able to connect with clients on a unique level,” Horton says. “I know what owners want, what they anticipate, and what drives them crazy so we can meet their needs and exceed their expectations.”
And he says there’s no better place to put that experience into action than PCL.
“PCL drives a real culture of accountability that I love,” he says. “I’ve always had ‘leave your ego at the door’ posters in my job trailers, so I feel like I fit right in with the data center team. We’re excellent at what we do and we respect each other’s swim lanes.”