New Design/Build Data Centre Project of the Year
The overall challenge of this project was to design, construct, and deliver to client a 2.5 MW mountain hall data centre in less than 9 months, during the Covid-19 pandemic. This data hall was built at our existing DC1-Stavanger campus.
The starting point was essentially a hole in the mountain with no basic infrastructure. This mountain cave was to be transformed into a fully operational data centre space, complete with interiors, cooling, power, and security - all within the time span of 9 months. The contract was signed in November 2019 with an agreed RFS date of August 1st, 2020.
The size of the completed mountain hall, including infrastructure in the tunnels, is about 1800 square metres. The power capacity is 2.5 MW but a doubling in both space size and power is possible if the client needs further expansions inside the same mountain hall.
For cooling, down flow units were used instead of in-row cooling according to customer requirements. This was also a more cost-efficient solution. The cooling source is the adjacent fjord, where our award-winning cooling solution supplies 100 kW of cooling for every 1kW of power used to operate the system. The data center uses only 100% renewable power, which was a pre-requisite for the client. The client has an ambitious climate goal of becoming carbon-negative in the near future.
In other words, the main challenges in this project related to:
- Covid-19 situation
- Building inside a mountain as opposed to an open-air construction site where you have more space flexibility.
- A tight deadline
- Strict security requirements from the client
Building a data center inside a mountain is clearly more complicated than building in an open outdoor space. The project was on a tight deadline from the start and the Covid-19 pandemic added an extra layer of complexity. Therefore, the team immediately started to execute their project plans to secure progression and avoid delays.
One key decision was to order equipment very early in the process, even before all the details were sorted. Especially concerning “long lead items”, the team made sure to book time in the production line of the suppliers. This way they secured a “buffer” in case of unforeseen events. This proved to be valuable when large parts of society shut down due to Covid-19. Because of the meticulous planning and cooperation with partners, the team benefitted from a head-start in the process. Furthermore, the team had a very progressive approach towards the suppliers, with close follow-ups to make sure our deliveries were prioritized. Not only did the lead project manager and procurement manager constantly address the suppliers, but cases were also escalated to top management to secure the necessary attention.
Other important milestones were the completion of the data floor, medium voltage energization and “early access”. The data floor was an especially critical item in the timeline as a prerequisite for other tasks moving forward. Fortunately, it was completed in April, one week ahead of schedule. Consequently, the medium voltage energization was performed in May and early access was given 6 weeks prior to RFS.
Having a data centre inside a mountain naturally implies that this is a high-security facility. The facility can withstand attacks and natural disaster (although very rare in Norway), but the client also had strict requirements of numerous high-security measures. Designing and implementing this security regime was a significant part of the project.
No doubt, there were minor setbacks along the way in this unprecedented situation, but the project was ready for the CX Commissioning in June/July and the RFS was approved according to client demands on August 1st.
Normally, a construction project like this would require at least 12 months. During the most hectic construction phase, 150 workers were on site, managing to perform their tasks within a strict Covid-19 control regime. A Covid-19 task force had daily meetings to monitor the situation and decided to implement personnel control at the gate. Each and every person had to answer specific questions and have their identity and access level verified upon every site entry. The result: no cases of infection on site or other HSEQ incidents during the project for that matter.
The team also had to figure out how to conduct the CX commissioning and RFS without compromising Covid-19 infection control procedures. Representatives from the client and CX agents from BVPI* could not be physically present at the site. The solution was to perform the process remotely using virtual tools. During the test phase, the CX agents worked remotely through our on-site resources who were available by live video and Teams meetings to perform the tests. This was a new experience to all of us, but it proved to be more successful than anticipated and more efficient for all parties involved. Given the situation, we shortened this phase by several days.
*(company responsible for testing)
The combination of the Covid-19 situation and a strict deadline on top certainly made this a complex project. The client, an international cloud provider, has extensive experience in building their own data centers and they are also used to working with external operators around the world. At this time, the client had multiple active projects on a global basis, but during the pandemic period only one of these were delivered on time – the Green Mountain project. By being a smaller organization, with only a handful of key project members, Green Mountain was nimble and adaptable to changing circumstances. At the same time, our solid project methodology and 10 years of experience with demanding international clients make us competent to execute complex projects. No doubt, there were challenging times in this project, but every employee tried to live up to the company values of “Customer in focus, Reliability & Honesty, Knowledge and Enthusiasm.” These values make up the foundation of our work culture and make the team go an extra mile to satisfy the customer.