News - Construction News

Data Centres Must Prepare for Fall-Out

The construction industry has a well-documented supply chain struggle, and this should serve as a reminder to data centre operators to ensure schedules of new facilities are adapted to avoid costly disruption, according to Aggreko.

According to recent statistics from the Construction Products Association, construction output surpassed pre-pandemic levels in May 2021. But ongoing headlines suggest a growing skills and materials shortage which could significantly impact infrastructure projects.

This includes the Office for National Statistics reporting that material costs rose by 20% between July 2020 and July 2021, and the Construction Skills Network suggesting the industry requires 217,000 additional workers to meet demand by 2025.

For data centres across Europe, particularly in the Continental and Nordic regions which often rely heavily on UK and Irish contractors to fulfil infrastructure projects, these events show delays should be expected and accounted for. As such, long-term planning around engaging testing and commissioning expertise, and securing necessary construction equipment, is more important than ever, according to Aggreko.

Billy Durie, Global Sector Head for Data Centres at Aggreko, said: “The upheaval the UK construction industry is currently experiencing has clear ramifications across multiple sectors, including the European data centre market.

“With contractors from this region often sought out on the continent for their expertise, any skills shortage could be problematic for facility providers on tight project schedules.

“This is doubly the case considering data centre construction continues to boom, meaning this disparity between falling supply and skyrocketing demand will need to be addressed. Long-term planning will therefore be required if contractors are to navigate this with minimal disruption.”

Market intelligence currently predicts a compound annual growth rate of 4% from 2021 to 2026 in the Western Europe and Nordic data centre markets. However, with the availability of specialist contractors decreasing due to COVID-based disruption, innovative strategies may be required to access vital skills, including engaging third-party expertise to test and commission facilities.

Mr Durie added: “Delivering a facility on time and to budget can be a very complex and demanding situation for data centre providers, and the current skills shortage in the market has further exacerbated a high-pressure situation. However, rushing through key processes is not the answer, as due diligence is required to ensure data centre resilience and minimise errors that could lead to reputational damage.

“Consequently, with scope for permanent hires in this area contracting, we would advise engaging as early as possible with global suppliers that can provide the key personnel and utilities equipment required for testing and data collection. By doing so, these contractors can plan in advance and avoid setbacks while accessing standardised, high-quality testing even while supply chains remain affected.

“Aggreko, for example, already has multiple pan-European frameworks in place, meaning that contractors will receive consistently excellent levels of service, solutions, product quality and pricing. At a time when the market is experiencing great upheaval, this level of consistency is vital and should be sought after as a priority.”

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