Sector - Consultancy
What Opportunities Await Contractors
Each year brings fresh challenges to the construction industry, and it is fair to say that 2020 was no exception. And while many sectors were encouraged to work from home, those employed in construction were some of the unsung key workers who remained committed to delivering projects. On growing opportunity for the construction industry is with the data centre sector, as demand continues to increase across the world. The Nordics region in particular offers fantastic prospects for UK and Irish contractors, as Billy Durie, Global Sector Head for Data Centres at Aggreko, explains.
Looking towards the Fjords
While doubt was cast on the survival of a number of industries, one which continued to boom during 2020 was the data centre sector. As working from home became the norm during the lockdown months, reliance on data usage and servers increased.
One area which is currently seeing a surge in new facilities is the Nordics region. Sweden, Norway, Finland and Denmark have all seen significant investments in data centres, including co-location and edge facilities, and it is believed that 200 data centres have been established in this region over the past decade. Countries in the Nordics have a number of benefits to investors, such as naturally lower temperatures offering greater free cooling capacity and availability of renewable energy.
So, then, how does this impact UK and Irish contractors? One of the major challenges for the Nordic region is a shortage of skilled teams and resource to deliver projects at the pace required. In fact, many data centre projects in the Nordics are managed by contractors based in the UK and Ireland. Understanding this region’s challenges is therefore key for contractors if they are to take advantage of this growing opportunity in 2021.
Temperature poses one of the biggest challenges in the Nordics region, dropping as low as -30oC over the winter months. Throughout the construction phase, it is imperative that facilities remain operational for workers. The impact of Covid-19 has seen delays to projects in the Nordics, with travel bans restricting contractors from crossing the North Sea.
As such, planned construction phases, like excavation, which is usually carried out before the ground freezes, may have been pushed back. At this point, contractors must ensure that temporary heating is installed to help thaw the frozen ground to allow for construction to continue.
For facilities further on through the construction phase, rooms may need to be heated to certain temperature for contractors carrying out installations to meet local legislation and aid safe and productive work. Providing temporary heat may also be vital to ensuring ambient conditions are kept stable, so the installation of electrical and mechanical infrastructure can help contractors conform to manufacturer guidelines. However, the use of heaters could inadvertently cause issues further down the line, if used incorrectly.
A second challenge that is facing construction industry is humidity. The Nordics are known for their cold, and often wet, weather. The issue of humidity is therefore a year-round concern and managing it is critical for the long-lasting performance of any facility being built.
Many contractors will solely rely on heaters to remove damp areas, but this can cause inefficiencies in the future. While on the surface, it may appear that heaters are an effective way to dry surfaces, there are many underlying damages that occur. That is because heaters simply move the moisture, rather than removing it from the atmosphere.
The damage moisture can cause is more long-lasting than people imagine. As well as causing premature deterioration of building materials, moisture can also find its way into the smallest areas and spaces, with electrical components particularly vulnerable to its effects. As such, it is imperative that moisture is managed effectively, given the reliance on data centres and damaging impact of any downtime.
If, during construction, extreme weather is experienced, it is strongly recommended that moisture is removed as part of the drying process. There are three stages required for the successful removal of moisture: moisture removal, heat and air movement.
Adding heat into the space excites water molecules, so they are drawn out of the building structure and into the expanded atmosphere. Fans should then be introduced to circulate the air, aiding the removal of moisture, while a dehumidifier should be the final step. Removing energised water molecules from the environment – and in turn reducing moisture levels – dehumidification eliminates water from the air completely, cooling the air below before condensing and draining away.
It is more important than ever that humidity is taken seriously on all construction sites. If volatile weather patterns are to become more consistent, then ensuring dehumidifiers are on-site is going to be essential to ensuring any facility’s long-term performance.
Preparing for the unpredictable
2020 taught us to expect the unexpected. For contractors which face pressures to meet ever-tightening deadlines, particularly within the data centre market, travel disruptions have caused supply chain issues around the world, highlighting the important role of critical equipment hire.
If the arrival of components and parts that are required during the construction or maintenance of a data centre is impeded in any way, operations could see significant delays. With data centre demand at a peak in order to facilitate remote working and medical data storage, and with a rise in demand for new infrastructure to facilitate emerging tech – such as 5G – downtime or delays are simply not an option.
Rental solutions, including dehumidifiers, heating equipment and generators, can ensure infrastructure projects can be carried out smoothly and completed on time. Allowing continuation of operations when there are delays in the delivery of critical equipment, temporary solutions are scalable and flexible and so can be implemented in any size of data centre for however long they may be required.
As the world’s largest hire company, Aggreko provides temporary power, battery storage, temperature control and testing around the globe, to meet the ever-growing demands of data centres. For more information, please visit www.aggreko.com/data-centres.
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