Data center facilities pro

Sep 10 2008   5:09PM GMT

Another drawback to hot/cold aisle containment

Mark Fontecchio Mark Fontecchio Profile: Mark Fontecchio

Last week I wrote about the fire code issues around containing your hot and/or cold aisles for energy efficiency benefits. And while I wrote pretty extensively on the issues that can arise, I didn’t touch on the financial implications of fixing those issues.

Take the issue around fire sprinklers, for example. I wrote about how one company, Advanced Data Centers (ADC), is planning on using duct work at the back of the IT equipment cabinets to isolate the hot aisle. Because of this, however, they’re planning on putting a separate sprinkler head inside each contained hot aisle.

Other data centers have installed vinyl curtains between the hot and cold aisles that have fasteners that will melt at 130 degrees, thus causing the curtains to drop and ensuring the existing sprinkler heads can reach everywhere. But an engineer at The Uptime Institute recommended adding sprinkler heads anyway, just in case the curtains and fasteners malfunction.

Now, if you’re building a new data center and design all these sprinklers into the system, it’s not too bad. But what if you’re looking to retrofit?

That’s what one client of Future Facilities is dealing with. I just talked to Sherman Ikemoto from Future Facilities, which sells computational fluid dynamics (CFD) software that does complex mathematical modeling of airflow in data centers. Ikemoto said that one client estimated that fixing the sprinkler system in their 7,000-square-foot data center would set them back $150,000.

“He wanted to do plastic curtains for containment,” Ikemoto said. “But to maintain compliance with fire code, he would have to change the sprinkler system in the room.”

I’m hoping to do a full case study on this particular client of Future Facilities. In the meantime, this is another factor to consider if you’re thinking about hot/cold aisle containment. There will also be some interesting tidbits from my call with Ikemoto that I’ll publish here soon.

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