Cloud computing conjures images of interconnectivity in the sky. However, we all know the magic doesn’t happen in the sky – it happens in data centers across the planet, in those massive, warehouse-looking buildings with seemingly endless rows of servers. In other words, the cloud is a physical place on Earth: it’s a place filled with fiberoptic cables, redundant mechanical and a tremendous amount of security.

As more of our world exists online, and as more devices join the Internet of Things, the data centers where the cloud lives must handle our demands for increased performance. But how? If the cloud is a physical location, then data centers must continue to expand to handle this demand. Many times, they can be extremely large buildings or campuses and these facilities use massive amounts of energy. Yet, places such as Singapore and the City of Frankfurt have already put moratoriums on new data center builds, due to land availability and energy usage that threatens to stymie climate change targets. Pressure is mounting to improve metrics like power and water utilization rates.

At the same time, the COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated that continuous connection is more vital than ever for education, remote work and almost everything else. Clients now expect data centers to deliver 99.999% uptime (the “five nines” metric), or less than five minutes of planned downtime per year. We need data centers more than ever, and we need them to work harder than ever. But how do we get them to use less water and energy?

This might seem like an intractable problem, but it doesn’t have to be. The right builder for today’s data centers understands that quality and precision are key to improving overall performance, and that improving performance is the key to addressing both demand and sustainability at the same time.

At PCL, our focus on performance has allowed us to stand out in the Buildings markets. Yet this focus doesn’t only apply to conventional markets such as commercial and retail – it extends to data centers and mission critical facilities as well. Over decades, we have delivered billions of dollars’ worth of data center projects, from small-scale upgrades to entire data center campuses, and we’ve built a reputation for making precision paramount.

Whether complex, large-scale retrofits, new builds (including Tier IV fault-tolerant projects) or critical environmental upgrades, we fulfil our clients’ expectations for performance and sustainability. When a client needs a high-performing data center with a sustainable footprint, we have the insight and experience to deliver the right solutions. 

We believe that building with precision begins at the design stage. We partner with leading designers, engineers and trade partners, and our relentless focus on innovative and advanced safety programs considers the lifespan of the project and its intended use. Further, our advanced analytic and diagnostic tools provide a high-quality product that adheres to precision functionality and schedule requirements.

Our other performance advantage is technology. Sean Mulligan, PCL’s director of mission critical, has helped build data centers for internationally renowned partners such as Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft and JP Morgan Chase. “PCL’s project experience demonstrates we can handle the size, scale and complexity that data centers require,” said Sean. “Take controls: data centers are basically all controlled by computers, and computers know what’s going on because of sensors. This is an area where PCL excels – we have an entire family of products in our Job Site Insights™ smart construction platform, which centralizes data from sensors to provide real-time monitoring and alerts.”

Further, Job Site Insights™ recently merged with Latium Technologies, a go-to Internet of Things solutions provider for heavy industry. This allows PCL to lead the way in innovative technology that can significantly reduce energy usage on the job site and in building management systems, demonstrating measurable value for our clients. The benefit to data centers is clear: clients need more-efficient buildings, and we know how to design, build and maintain them.

This focus on performance ultimately pays off in sustainability. “When we talk about efficiency and performance,” Mulligan said, “it’s all tied in with sustainability. If you can use less electricity, it’s good for the environment and the bottom line. And that’s good for shareholders.”

With a proven record on sustainability, we offer our clients a crucial competitive advantage. More than 300 LEED Accredited Professionals work at PCL. Our rating system expertise also includes WELL, Living Building Challenge, Envision, Passive House, Fitwel and others.

Beyond that, our sustainability experts contribute to the design process of data centers from the outset. Their expertise ensures that key design measures will reduce operating costs and improve overall sustainability. Optimizing a data center for energy efficiency requires a builder with a deep understanding of building envelope performance, HVAC efficiency and solutions that will create savings for the building owner. That’s why PCL has an in-house team of designers and solution providers, known as the Building Systems Group, who have a passion for the mission critical market and know how to deliver these kinds of solutions.

This approach to data centers, however, comes from an overall commitment to sustainability that influences our work in every market. PCL also has a growing portfolio of solar projects and extensive experience with mass timber, a low-carbon building material. These experiences and insights all help make us a next-generation partner for our clients – one with a diverse crew of experts who are committed to making your project sustainable.

We’re at a turning point in the future of data centers, and the clash between reducing energy usage and increasing demand isn’t easy to resolve. Yet an approach that prioritizes performance can thread this needle. Solving this problem just takes the right builder.